Wednesday, August 31, 2016

so, September

School starts tomorrow and I have mixed feelings about it. Mostly, I'm relieved that we'll be back in a regular routine but the start of the new school year means they and I are another year older and life is going too quickly and all that stuff.

It's the last year of elementary school for Daniel. 5th grade! He has to wear deodorant. He grew two inches over the summer and comes up to my nose now, when he stands up straight. He's asking for a phone (the answer is no.) He wants a YouTube account (the answer is NO.) He doesn't hear me when it's time to stop playing computer games, but he still gets totally excited about playing putt putt golf (we've made it a tradition to putt putt and go out for ice cream the last day of summer vacation) and needs a good night kiss.

Anya starts 3rd grade tomorrow and she's nervous. 3rd grade is when everyone gets more social, and she is shy so I am nervous for her. She's in a class of other smart, sensitive kids and she's got a cracker jack teacher, so I'm not really worried about her.

I think one of the hardest things about parenting so far is coming to the realization that you can't be responsible for your kids' happiness. You can provide a stable, secure home. You can enforce routine and set the standards for good habits. You can be the one they complain to, cling to, push away, puke on, demand snacks from, play endless games with, but you can't BE them. You can't fix their emotions or solve their problems or take away their pain. You can just be the buffer and gently steer them in what you hope is the right direction.

My mom told me the other day that worrying doesn't do any good, so I might as well stop. Worry doesn't change anything for the better or fix anything. Stop worrying and just take things as they come. It's good advice. I'm trying to follow it. Worry is a part of modern parenting that I actively have to work against, though. It's hard.

Today I was trying to remember what it was like going back to school when I was a kid. I remember being excited about back to school shopping. New clothes, new pencils, that stuff was exciting. I don't remember if there was a lot of fanfare otherwise. I think we just went to school without a whole lot of fuss. My mom took pictures the first day of kindergarten, but that might have been it. Or I just don't remember. Who knows.)

I think there is a danger in being so completely invested in your children that you can't distance yourself from them when they need it. We've spent SO much time together this summer, my kids and I. It's not unhealthy, but I think structured time spent away from each other will be a good thing for all of us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

snapshots: sunflower days

School starts next week, and I'm both relieved and sorry that summer is coming to an end. Enjoy these snapshots from a month ago when summer and the sunflowers were at their peak.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

still summer

The end of summer seems to be a period of relatively high anxiety for me. Mostly, I handle it fine, but I have many moments where I let all the little worries blow up into big ones, and before I know it, I'm freaking out about absolutely nothing. I don't have any big Problems with a capital "P" right now (we're all healthy and keepin' on), but it's still emotionally difficult for me to see my kids growing up and my parents getting older and the globe getting warmer and my hair getting grayer. In other words, time is passing like it always has and there is nothing I can do about it. Being all grateful and in the moment ain't all bad, but it does tend to add to the melancholy.

So now I'm going to cheer myself up with a random list of things that calm me, and stuff I can look forward to:

  1. School starts in a few weeks. Of course I have lots of feelings about my kids growing up and all, but at the same time it will be nice to have us out of each other's hair all day long.
  2. To that end I'll be going back to work with the start of the school year. My teaching job is only a few hours a week, and the freelance work can be unpredictable, but work is good for me. I'm good at it, and it keeps me out of my head.
  3. My front yard garden is bursting with wildflowers. It's a little messy and overgrown at the moment, but that's just how I like it.
    So do the birds and bees and butterflies. The flowers are literally buzzing with activity all day.
  4. Fingers crossed some of the visiting monarchs will lay eggs on the milkweed.
  5. I do love to pull weeds and stir my compost pile. The mosquitoes are so thick and aggressive right now, they take the joy out of it somewhat, but there is something about getting my hands in the dirt, even for just a few minutes, that makes me feel better about everything.
  6. This makes me wonder if I should pursue my interest in the outdoors more seriously as an option for side job, or possibly second career. This would mean going back to school (anxiety trigger), but urban planning or urban land management or urban garden programs are all areas I could see myself in. I'm all about the urban outdoors, clearly. It probably doesn't pay any better than music, but it can't be much worse, and it's just as valuable to society and the greater good. Something to contemplate at any rate.
  7. Stuart and I really want to take a big road trip out west. We're thinking of taking the kids out of school for a few weeks (to avoid peak season crowds and heat) and either renting a camper or booking cabins and campsites in Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, and who knows where else. This is probably two years away, but just the thought of planning it is pretty exciting. The U.S. is so big and beautiful, and we want Daniel and Anya to experience as much of it as we can afford to before they are all grown up.
  8. It helps to remind myself that a year ago we were just beginning to gear up for the giant remodeling project at our house. In fact, a few weeks ago I gave our contractor the final payment for his part of the project; that was a good feeling! No more giant holes in the ground and piles of mud and irate letters with insane demands from the chronically crabby and pathologically territorial next door neighbor. It's done. Over. We can just enjoy living here (and continue ignoring the neighbor.)
  9. It's hot and muggy outside and the mosquitoes are wretched, but twenty minutes of Yoga With Adrienne (I'm a fan of the 30 day challenge series) is always a good thing. After getting rained out of swim lessons this morning, I made the kids do a video with me today and it wasn't as terrible as I expected it would be.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

randomly on Wednesday

Oh, the random list blog post. It's just so very mid-oughts, don't you think? And maybe a little lazy? Still, it can be a useful way to get the creative juices flowing when you're a little behind on posts. And behind I am because this summer, while not especially busy as summers go, has still been flying by even as sometimes the days creep along.

I hardly signed the kids up for any activities, aside from piano and  a few weeks of swim lessons. No camps, no team sports, not even the summer reading program at the library. I like to think it's because my hippie self wants them to explore their creativity and learn to be bored and roam free, but it's mostly because I'm a slacker and all the fun stuff was booked up months before I even thought about signing them up. (I believe I mentioned this before. I must have a complex. Or a tendency to repeat myself.) Who's ready to think about canoeing camp in early March anyway? Not me. Still, I vow to do better next year. We've had fun, though, frequenting the public pool (it's been hot and muggy more days than not), picking wild berries, biking when the weather isn't miserable, and checking out stacks of books from the library, everything from the Little House on the Prairie series (Anya) to Garfield comics (sigh, Daniel) to instructions on making kombucha (me, though I have yet to try it).

It's been a nice summer, relaxing and relatively drama-free, though we're starting to get a little bit bored with each other and twitchy. I know my patience is running shorter than usual. I had considered taking the kids on a road/camping trip this month so we would have something to look forward to in our last weeks of summer, but that's not going to work out because I have a gig next weekend. It's not particularly high pressure, but I did get the music rather late and I need to stick around so I can learn it and rehearse with the soloist. Also, camping is totally miserable this time of summer because by now the mosquitoes are in full force and insatiable, the beastly little vampires.

Anyhoo, here is a random list of some stuff I keep thinking of blogging about but haven't taken the time to do it. If you follow me on Instagram you've seen some of the pics, I'm sure:


Early last week we went to Pope Farm Conservancy along with gosh knows how many people (thousands) for Sunflower Days. Pope Farm is a special, beautiful place for sure. We've visited many times in different seasons, but this year was the first time we made it during the peak of the blooming sunflowers (they plant 9 acres of sunflowers every year at different locations; this year it was on a hillside on the western most part of the park) and it. was. absolutely. stunning. It was also completely overrun with other people, mostly families trying to get portraits of their sweaty, uncooperative toddlers...I look forward to going back when it's a little less crowded, but I'm glad I could see the flowers in full splendor.


Swimming has been the main activity of the summer, and I'm not sad about that. The kids aren't interested in swim team, thank goodness (I know it's a great experience for a lot of people, but that much time commitment and compulsory volunteer hours do not mesh with my summer vibe, yo) but they had several weeks of swim lessons and want to visit the pool during open swim most afternoons. For the first time ever, they are independent in the water, which means when I get tired of playing pool tag and ring toss or whatever we're doing, I can go swim laps and they can play on their own. Heaven.


We went to Kansas for a family reunion over the past weekend and spent a few days in the company of my mom's side of the family. We stayed at a rural Baptist retreat center, the grounds of which were resplendent with wildlife and Bible verses; on an evening walk I saw at least as many skunks as references to the lamb of God carved above stone benches. The last time I saw most of these relatives was over three years ago, and a lot has happened in that time - serious illness, cross-country moves, new babies. It was truly wonderful seeing everyone, and I got homesick for Kansas like I always do until I remember about the politics (their governor is even worse than ours) and searing summer heat.


One evening in Kansas we squeezed in a sunset visit to the family farm to see the goats! The goats joined the farm just a few weeks ago and were procured in order to, as my cousin John put it, "turn weeds into dollars." Goats, you see, are the single most effective way to control wild blackberries that are taking over the pastureland where the cattle graze. I presume the goats will eventually be sold for meat, but in the meantime, they are pretty damn cute. They also really like my dad, who generously pulled down a few branches of a mulberry tree so they could nibble the leaves. It was utterly bucolic.

Once he did that, they kept following him around until we sidled out of the fenced area and left.

5.) I keep going round and round and round again about whether I should expand my career options. My teaching job is only a few hours a week and doesn't pay well, and freelancing is stressful and unpredictable. I have a website with my professional bio and contact information that I've been meaning to revamp and update for over a year, if that tells you anything about how discouraged I am about the path I'm currently on. Or maybe instead of a path I should call it a treadmill because it feels like I'm not getting anywhere. I love what I do, but I wish it were more reliable. So then is it worth giving up to pursue something else? I can't decide. I'm also not getting any younger. Ho hum.

6.) Remember how I have been taking voice lessons? I've had three so far and it's going well. I'm having loads of fun with it, both because Jane (my teacher) is wonderful in so many ways, and also because there's no pressure for me to be any good. I'm not going to be a singer. I'm just learning how to sing better for no one's benefit but my own and it's a blast. It's still hard, but I'm getting better. It helps to breathe through a straw.

Well, I think that's it for tonight. My knitting beckons, and Stuart and I are finally catching up on the final season of The Good Wife.  I promise I won't be a stranger.