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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

digging my way out

My last post was "emerging."  This time I had to go with a title that had more balls.

When Sandi started school last fall I had two fears:  getting sick and our aged car breaking down.

Fate saw to it that both happened at the same time.

After my last post I was gearing up to "reign over my personal universe" as Zoe called it.   The virus that had overtaken my body, making me think of that Dustin Hoffman/Rene Russo film "Outbreak", was also gearing up to reign over my personal universe.

I had the "gotcha" virus.  Very scientific.  Just when you think you have overpowered it, it grabs you, shouts "gotcha" in the snide way only a triumphant virus can, and takes you down again.  I was sick for 2 weeks.  By the end I had conjunctivis that made made my eye swell nearly closed, a sinus infection and bronchitis.  And I had eaten all the dry cereal and popsicles in the house.  Between my sickness, the kids getting bits of what I had and some ill-placed snowdays and teacher workshop days, I feel like I have been on house arrest.

But don't worry. It isn't like our car broke down, threatening to strand Sandi in Portland while I crawled around the house with one eye, trying to make supper for the kids and attempt not to cough up a lung. 

Except it did.

All is well now.  I am back on my feet with both ocular faculties and am chomping at the bit to get to the gym (if there is a snow day tomorrow my friends better lock their doors or they may find themselves with an extra couple of kids).  Sandi has a new car and is down in Portland growing her brain cells like a chia pet.

Here are some things I have learned recently:

-There is pretty much nothing more awesome than eating at Pizza Hut with your seven-year-old who was teaming with pride to have choosen the establishment. Especially when she takes a bite of the chocolate pudding from the salad bar, sighs in delight and murmurs, "Delicious."  (Ella and I had a date today.  She didn't have school but Maya did.)

-The stomach bug beats the pants off a 2 week sickness. Twenty four hours of desperation is better than being sick so long you can't remember what being well feels like.  (That being said, I do not wish to contract the stomach flu.  I've paid my sickness dues for the year.)

-My life must have more meaning than driving, cooking, shopping, cleaning, and supervising.  However it is the extra "stuff", organizing dances, baking for people who are sick or down, throwing parties, taking on projects, that both fulfill and exhaust me.  I can't live with them and can't live without them.

- It's a good thing file taxes has a reward at the end.

- An unwavering want for cake means that I am out of balance.

-When I'm sick, I have very little fight and drive.  I sleep, sit on the couch, watch TV and cannot even imagine how I normaly move so fast. If you ever need my consent for something major, ask me while I'm sick.  You're chances are good.

- An overwhelmed mother does not make a good caretaker for an elderly, incontinent dog.

-Sometimes, after things go wrong for a while, they inevitably go right again.

My friend Ange sent this to me in a text today:  "I wish I could do one thing and do it well and not half ass about 10 million things."

I so want a bumper sticker that says that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

emerging

My apologies this post, like the others before it, has no pictures.

I was going to take a picture of the sign Ella made in pink bubble letters that says, "The Best Room"  with an arrow pointing to her room (naturally) but the camera was being persnickety. 

Which is fitting for the rest of how things have been going.

I am clawing my way back from a nasty five day cold that felt part head cold, part strep throat, part flu.  I got the all-inclusive of sicknesses, complete with head congestion, runny nose (both of which led to sleep impairment), fever, sore throat, fatigue, cough and body aches.  Mostly, the thought of bed overwhelmed any inclinations to pack lunches, drive people around and referee the knock down drag outs our girls are accustomed to.

Can I get an "amen sister" from all the moms out there that taking care of your kids when you are sick is, hands down, the suckiest part of parenting?

I had lovely offers from friends to take my kids, however Ella was sick with a lighter version of what I had and Maya was running a fever.   Sandi came home from Portland the evening of the third day, when I had crawled to the stove to make supper, casting longing glances at the driveway hoping to make her appear early.  (It worked.  She came home 15 minutes earlier than I expected.)  Ella was home sick Friday and Maya was home healthy and I was praying for bed time as soon as I woke at 8 am.  Sandi stayed home for a few hours and then was off to study, with the understanding that I could call her if I couldn't do it.

For a girl like me, calling "uncle" is a hard call to make. 

I decided to visit the doctor Friday and dropped the girls at Tricia's (which is where Sandi studies, but with ear plugs).  The PA told me to go home and sleep. I wanted to laugh in her face.  But thanks to Trish and Netflix streaming,  I got a strep test (negative) and a nap before they returned.

By way of general updates I will tell you that Sandi's semester (2 credits more than last) is like going from the frying pan into the fire.   In addition to all the studying, reading and test prep she has to do she also has a class that requires an additional 5 plus hours of watching lectures on your own time.

 Ella has turned into a pre-teen and sits listening to Lady Gaga (and Lady Gaga songs sung by the Chipettes) with her headphones on, singing off-key aloud.  She is moody and mouthy and snarls and growls at us if we cross her. 

Maya is more hilarious then ever and has become obsessed with my hair.  She questions me several times a day if my hair will be straight, curly or in a ponytail tomorrow or when I pick her up or when I make supper.  "You can have this necklace I made for you when your hair is straight," she will say.  It is the strangest thing.  She eats dinner as fast as she can manage so she can get down and become our supper entertainment.  Last night, she was doing magic tricks (from the magic show I had taken them to that morning) including "disenterpearing" behind living room furniture and then popping out with flourish. 

Maya always refers to the next day as "after bed."  "So Mommy will be home after bed two times?"  Finally Ella said to her, "Maya, do you know that another way to say 'after bed' is 'tomorrow'?"

I'm still searching for a name. I appreciate all the feedback!  I feel like I'm on the edge of brilliance.

Wait, I think that basically describes my whole life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

resolutions and expansions

Mostly the idea of a New Year's resolution appeals to me.  But being the all or nothing kind of girl I am, I think it is only a good idea if I can and will achieve it.  A discarded and unachieved resolution is like going to the trouble to buy really good new socks and having them fall behind the dryer never to be seen again. 

However, being a tad of an overachiever, I am careful about what resolutions I make. I will not be pleased with myself if I don't complete it, yet how reasonable is it that I will be able to hike the 100 miles of wilderness, the hardest part of the Appalachian Trail, this summer in Maine? 

You get the idea.

Plus, being one that likes to be successful, it doesn't hurt that this year I started and set my resolution simultaneously.

My 2012 New Year's resolution is....to start writing a book.

Wow, that seems big to say.  But note it is just to start it, not to complete it.  (That will likely be my 2013 resolution.)  And I've already started. I have 7 entire pages written.

I started writing a book literally 11 years ago and worked on it on and off for 4 years. I got about 130 pages in.  Then we had Ella and my life twisted and morphed into an entirely different landscape than my 20-something, childless outlook and I just couldn't seem to pick it back up.

A book I just finished resonated so deeply in me, I felt like I knew each sentence that would come next, almost as though I was writing it as I was reading.  The dawning of inspiration began and a true want to write returned.

I told Sandi that I had an idea but I wasn't sure when I would ever make the time to write. I was certain that if I were to write I would have to MAKE time for it, time would never present itself on a silver platter to me. The house would have to be less clean (and I would have to be okay with it) and I would have to get less sleep if I were to create what I've heard so many successful writers tout: a writing schedule.

Here is the good news: writing feeds me and fulfills me in a way that emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the office and reorganizing the shoes by the back door for the third time in one day never could. It is a way for me to balance the every increasing demands of my life as a (mostly) stay at home mom and recently as a mostly single mom.

If you will forgive the drama....writing could be my salvation. 

In a related note, I have decided to expand the blog.  I'm not entirely sure how but I think I'm ready.  I'm going to start with changing the name. I want something reflective of what it is that this blog offers, something about the value of honestly and realness with parenting and living as well as healthy lifestyles and eating and , of course, trying to take chocolate milk away from kids. 

I'm in the brainstorming stage.  I tried "two girls" .com because I liked the double meaning but that was already owned by some porn giant.  "Just us girls" is a domain for sale, but for $2500.  I want a name that is easy to remember, easy to read when it is smooshed all together and, mostly is representative of my blog.    I also need a major overhaul of my layout and pictures but that is so out of my league it is like asking a preschooler to read Shakespeare. 

If anyone has any ideas, I am open!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

graduate school: an exercise in frustration, neural expansion and keeping fingers crossed that it is all worth it

This is what my next six weeks look like:

Plan a baby shower for Mindy and Charissa who are having twins (!), plan the PTO Valentine's Dance which I was elected to do this past summer without my consent and I didn't have the brains to say no one I was nominated (I also have no training since last year all I did was help blow up some balloons), plan a party and write an article for on my semi-failed chocolate milk campaign at Ella's school for my friend Emilie's online magazine, Sparrow.

Oh, and fold the laundry, shop, cook, clean, drive, unpack Maya's ten purses that she has throughout the house containing random items like chapstick, dollhouse furniture, my jewelry, a single glove (naturally, not the set) and, god forbid, my car keys. 

I should add to the list: try not to lose my mind.

Sandi's next six weeks, in fact next 5 months look like this: study, pack to go to Portland, study, drive to Portland, study, go to class, study, take a test, study, pack to come home, study, unpack from Portland, study and repeat.

Those folks down at UNE really know how to ruin a perfectly good vacation.  Sandi was to be off from the December 16th until January 3rd.  We both held our breath expecting them to give work over the break.  No one did. 

That is until about Christmas Eve.

The assignments started coming in.  Read 7 chapters in this book.  Watch 5 hours of lecture.  Take an online quiz in this class.  Oh, and you know that book you bought in the fall and paid $80 for?  A second addition is out so please buy it again.  And on and on. 

The vacation that remained after Christmas took this form.  Sandi: "I think if I study part of Thursday and Friday, that will be it and I will be able to just enjoy the rest of vacation."  Then:  "If I could study most of the day on Saturday then Sunday and Monday would be in the clear." 

It turned out she had to study part of Sunday and Monday too and still didn't finish it all.

I mean, c'mon people.  We knew it was a rigorous program.  We knew it would be hard and wrought with tension as we tried to negotiate having a family with having UNE as a mistress.  But, seriously, poor organization need not also be part of the stress.

I will confess I did not handle this ever increasing need for study time all that well.  I know it isn't Sandi's fault and I feel for her, having to hole up in the office with ear plugs while the girls and I play.  Sandi worked two twelve hour shifts in the ICU before Christmas and then with all the busyness of the holiday, we were SO looking forward to the down time before New Year's. 

What can I say.  I am so proud of us for making it through one semester and now she is halfway done with schooling in Portland so that is a plus.  Mostly, though, I feel like we just settle back into our new normal, putting our heads down and working (her on airways, physiology and pharmacology and me on dances and baby showers) and try not to think too much about how hard it is to be worlds apart.

It doesn't help that last night, as I was confessing my overwhelm about my ineptitude to plan the Valentine's Dance, we realized that she will be in Portland that day for a training and won't even be able to help me get it off the ground and she might have to miss the dance itself.  I worked really hard not to cry. I mean, it is only a dance for some little kids, right? RIGHT?

So I'm looking for a new wingman if anyone is interested....

Christmas rewind

Hang on to your hats! Here come the Christmas pictures.

Between two school parties, my incessant baking, organizing teacher gifts, mailing out an abbreviated amount of Christmas cards, socializing and packing to get to Beals Island (oh and having an unprecedented number of clients) the week before Christmas felt a lot like this:

First stop, Beals Island to have Christmas with the Carvers the 23rd-26th. 

Brevan got this awesome shark jaw from his grandparents.  What could be cooler?

Ella wanted a pair of dress shoes and her grandparents got her two to choose from.  She spent a great deal of time deciding which of the two to keep.



















She settled on the ones with a heel. Whose surprised?
Sandi wore her elf costume for a third time this season, coming to Christmas morning in an official capacity.   
The girls definitely seemed more mature this year.  They were able to better handle staying up late and Ella even played the game Telustrations (it's like Pictionary meets the telephone game) with a little help from Tia.

















Maya mainly doodled and kept a pen in her dress in a very official manner.
We gave Kenna this butterfly/fairy/princess outfit ratcheting up her cuteness factor exponentially.
































I'm fairly certain that Trish is just using this picture as an opportunity to flash her engagement ring and who can blame her? 
Patti and Dwight, my parents in-love, who always make Christmas so incredibly special.
It's possible there was some canoodling going on at Christmas:
Then it was back to our house for our family Christmas.  It has never been our tradition to come downstairs and start ripping and tearing so the girls slept in and then ran downstairs to see if Santa had come (and if he had eaten all his heath bar- he had.)  Santa brought Ella the high, high, high top Converse she wanted as well as a kid sewing machine and Maya got a baby doll (yes, another baby doll) and a sled. 


While Ella sewed, Maya did some important work at her new "desk."


We got the girls a train set for under the tree:






















After a year of saving up, Sandi finally got her ipad.  The girls took hold of it right away.

We take all day to open presents.  It's not that there are so many, it's just that we open one and play with it for a long time.  We had a nice mid day meal with Tia and Uncle Brock, played some more and then spent the late afternoon snuggled on the couch watching "The Grinch." 




































Maya got these cool Converse shoes:
One of the things Ella really wanted was a "pick-up radio" as she called it.  Between the Converse boots, the ability to stream dance music through Pandora and listen through new ear buds and the faux leather jacket she somehow acquired, she will right in style when the 80's (regretfully) return to the fashion world.


Then it was time to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family!

My sister and I had decided this year not to buy gifts for each other and to make gifts for the kids. The idea stemmed from a desire to cut back on expenditure but turned into such a wonderful thing that I'm guessing we will do it every year.  The kids took such pride in giving and such joy in receiving from each other.

Braeden, opening the photo album Maya made for him:
Michaela, opening the pillow case Sandi helped Ella make:
Maya, the only child ever to be this excited to get batteries with a gift my mother gave her:





















My mother looks forward to us making her a calender every year.  For the most part we have kept it up, with a couple of years in there where we dropped the ball and she didn't fail to show her disappointment.  It's full of pictures of our family, with quotes and birthday added in.  I think this year was our best one yet (thanks to the ease of Shutterfly) and seeing her joy when she opens it is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. 

Ella used her new potholder kit that we gave her for Christmas and made Aunt Kathryn her very own colorful potholder.  I love the proud look on my sister's face here as she opens it.

The weeks leading up to Christmas this year were an exercise in compacting as much as possible into every breathable space (a skill of mine Sandi loves- insert sarcasm). The lead up and the actual Christmas have been wonderful, fulfilling, connecting, magical and completely and utterly exhausting.

I had all I could do to get us where we needed to be, have food prepared for gatherings, have gifts wrapped and aim to remember the spirit with which is it is all done. As a result I did not sleep enough, did not  exercise enough (which is to say a tad excessively by most standards), and have at times eaten varied groupings of sugar, flour and butter with the vigor of an alcoholic headed for the Betty Ford Clinic in the morning.

So here I am at the cusp of the New Year, looking forward to the year for sure, and feeling a bit out of sorts and out of my normal rhythm.

In the end I know that I just have a love for a good party, serving people homemade food and having to put the leaf in the table to accommodate a table full.   I want to accomplish this and still sleep, actually sit down and have a conversation with Sandi and, oh yeah, take care of two kids.  I have yet to figure out the balance.  This Christmas left me certain that I want to slow it down next year.  The problem is I don't get a warning that I am close approaching too much. I only know it when I'm already there, have crossed the line and am careening down the cliff.

How does one make peace with her want for a house full of fun and the desire to not feel chewed up and spit out when it is all over?  What is the answer?  Catering?  Platters from the grocery store?  A maid?  Perhaps live-in help is the way to go?  I know that it wouldn't be as fun for me if I didn't plan the menu, make the food, lay it out on special patters and have people remark on how they like this or that.  The truth is I don't want to take shortcuts because I revel in the doing.  I just don't know how to not overdo.
Because when it is all said and done, I want to be amongst my family carving the Toferky.

Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, January 2, 2012

blog catch up: gingerbread making

I have been taking a big 'ol blogger break so here comes Christmas in review. I try only to blog because it is fun and fulfilling to me and with all the craziness of the holidays it would have felt like one more thing on my list.

So here it comes....

The Thursday before Christmas was Ella's last day of school before break. It was also her holiday party at school which Maya, Sandi and I volunteered at. Sandi, god love her, dressed up in her elf costume from the Elf Yourself Party, complete with flashing light bulb earrings. I wore reindeer antlers, a jingle bell and the same light up earrings, leading one child to ask me, "Sooooo are you dressed up as a reindeer?" and glancing over at the elf, clearly disappointed in my effort.

We had such fun at Ella's party, and Maya was like an obedient little soldier, obeying the teacher's every request of her students. She sat criss cross applesauce (cross-legged) on the rug, she placed her hands in her lap  while the kids waited for everyone to be served and she marched her plate to the trash as instructed when she was done.  I said, "Maya the trash can is over here" and she replied, icily, "I KNOW where the trash can is."

One curious little girl asked Sandi who she was.  "I'm Ella's mom," Sandi replied.  "No, THAT'S Ella's mom," she said, pointed at me. Sandi said, "Ella has two moms."

Flummoxed, the girl asked, "How does THAT happen?"

Then we came home for our annual gingerbread house decorating with the Smiths.  It was Anna's fourth birthday so we combined events.  Or, to put it more simply: sugar, sugar and more sugar.

If the chocolate milk people could see me now.


Poor Ange had made the gingerbread, erected it into houses, allowed them to harden and hidden the blank slates for candy mayhem in a box in the back of her van since the whole thing was a surprise for Anna.  This was apparently also a secret from Matt who unwittingly placed a six pack of beer on the secret box moments before they got to our house.

The kids made gingerbread tee pees instead, except for the birthday girl who got the only spared house.
When the pulled up to our house and said SURPISE! to Anna, she seemed slightly let down and said, "Oh, I thought the surprise was going to be a big tower of presents."

Leave it to a four-year-old.
















In an act of great Christmas generosity, we let the kids use our piping bags to frost and decorate.






















For Anna, though, it was all about the sprinkles.

Sandi and I look so tired in this picture.  When I look at it 2 weeks later I want to shout, "Turn back now!  The crazy is going to hit and you are going to be walking zombies on your feet!"   
As for this picture I just like to call it:  Future Engagement Announcement.