Friday, June 10, 2016

The proverbial last day of school entry

First day. Happy.

First day.
Notice that there are no fancy fonted dates, words, or images superimposed on these pictures. This is real life first day of school stuff. There's one kid who is mortified by the very existence of her mother and more mortified that her mother is taking pictures. There's one kid who obliges to make his Mommy happy, is excited to see his friends at school again, and wants desperately for his sister to smile with him, and capitalizes on how mortified she is. There's a mother who just wants to capture the moment before her children head off to school. And it's not even 8:30AM.

Fast forward to the last day, and the last nine months seem a bit of a blur. If I had to summarize things, I'd say that Ethel's moods somewhat evened out, she tells us even less than before about what she's working on in school, and she is adored by the second graders in her charge as a patrol. Fred was pegged as a leader by his teacher, gained a love of cooking in an after school club, and his creative side flourished in art and music.

Yesterday was Ethel's last day in elementary school. Yesterday was Fred's last day as a third grader. They are both very unhappy because yesterday was their first day of summer day camp. Buzz kill.

That said, the changes in both kids were gradual, but, pronounced. Fred came out of his shell quite a bit and started to sort of come into his own. He joined Cub Scouts in the fall for the first time, and he picked up on it all quite quickly. He truly enjoyed his first year of Scouting, and so did we. He is looking forward to next year as a Webelo I. He also started inline hockey classes, starting with a skills and drills class. Let me tell you, this kid is amazing. He's roller skated once or twice, but never inline. At the first class, he spent more time on the floor than he did skating. Within two hours of coming home from that first class, he wanted to get on his skates and practice. He put in lots of time after school to get better at skating, and it's paid off tenfold. He is having a blast and learning a lot. He wants to go on and play in a league!

Ethel continued to read and read and read this year. She became a patrol, keeping watch over the second graders during their lunch and recess. Her biggest complaint was that they little ones liked to steal her snacks from her lunch. When we attended the 2nd and 3rd grade concert for Fred, Ethel watched the 2nd graders with a big smile on her face, and some of the little ones called out to her with real excitement. She also joined chorus this year, which she has chosen to keep going with in junior high next year. The band geek in me was thrilled when she chose to try orchestra! My tiny little peanut picked the cello, of all instruments. Thank goodness for half sizes. She did so well, we are so proud of her. The grand finale was Girls on the Run. The staff site coordinator sucked some major lemons and there was a bully in the group, but, Ethel enjoyed it nonetheless. I was fired as her running buddy for the 5K this year in favour of Daddy. She not only did well, she killed her times from the previous two years and it was awesome.

We uncovered some new challenges with Fred, while some of the issues with Ethel seemed to calm. Overall, I think we ended the year with a win. I could complain, but it's not going to get me any free wine, so to heck with it!

When it comes down to it, we have two healthy kids who have a healthy resentment of parental authority, sharp senses of humour, and who aren't on the radar of the authorities. We are blessed by these little beings who teach us, challenge us, and remind us that the word fart is really pretty funny.

Last day. Happier.
Last day. Cool.
I tried really hard to upload some more pictures but they're all sideways and upside down and I don't have the patience. Argh.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Not a Pintrest mom

Sure, I have a blog. That's about as fancy as this mom gets. I also have ADD, which is a big contributor to my absence from blogging the last couple years. I get easily overwhelmed when life is happening, so trying to capture the flurry of activity in my brain for someone outside that brain to digest is often impossible for me. When you're responsible for two smaller-than-you humans and everything that has to do with their everything, something has to give. Unfortunately, as much as I love being here, blogging is expendable in my daily life. Add that the laptop at home died, and there you have it, folks.

That said, my brain almost literally explodes at the thought of more digital influence in my life. We have cable TV, I have a cell phone, a Facebook account, and I have this little blog. Oh, and a husband, kids, and a full time job outside the home, too. My little brain is pretty full trying to remember my kids' names, where I work, and all the millions of passwords for different web sites, all of which are "unique" and "smart" (most are smarter than I). Every so often I get to read a book (made out of paper) for my book club and try to retain what I've read so I can talk about it when we gather.

I derail somewhat easily when I'm not "in the zone". OK, so I just derail easily. It can take me just a few minutes to pound out a blog entry, or even a lengthy e-mail, when I am inspired. When I'm not inspired or "in the zone" it can take days. I've started blog entries countless times over the last two years, even ones which have a specific topic or purpose. Suddenly, the wind blows, I see dishes in the sink, I have to eat, I have to pee, wait - shiny rock! I rethink sentences, rewrite paragraphs, delete, rewrite, then I decide to try again later. Later becomes next week, next month, you get the idea.

If I had to try to keep track of pins, boards, swipes, taps, whatever - I'd lose my sanity and most likely my job. I have enough time suckers as it is. They're 11 and 9 years old. It's bad enough to try to set Candy Crush aside for 9 hours while I'm at work, but, if I knew that there were cute crafts and life hacks that could help me bond with my kids or save me money and time, I would go insane! Seeing how inept I am when it's tossed at me on Facebook is one thing, but for entire websites to tease and taunt me, my self-esteem would take a huge nose dive. It's hard enough to make sure I am tucking the right kids into bed at night, I can't keep track of the millions of cute ways to use clothes pins.

I have recommitted myself to my health, my fitness, controlling ADD symptoms and improving my focus. Much of this is thanks to putting healthy eating back to the forefront. I find that when I'm focused on eating well, back to my Paleo ways, my mind does much better. When I'm running more, my sanity is much better. My hope is that I can keep eating right, blog when I think of it, and get my body running more miles.

That's all for now. It's time to get more coffee and brace myself for the last day of school. Until the next entry...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Time passes quickly

I was driving to the grocery store on Saturday in the rain. I really don't like grocery shopping, and I like it less in the rain. I didn't have the kids with me, so I guess it could have been worse.

I came to a stop light and noticed something in the car ahead of me. I hadn't noticed that the rain had stopped. From the rear window of the car in front of me, a tiny little hand reached out toward the sky. Curious little fingers reaching out, probably trying to see if they could touch the clouds in the sky, the car in the next lane, or maybe even just to feel the breeze. The little hand had sweet, chubby little fingers with dimpled knuckles. I caught myself with a huge smile on my face.

After the smile, I began to find tears on my cheeks. Where did that shit come from? It's a Saturday afternoon. My son is at a party for three hours, my daughter is at home with my husband, and I AM ALONE TO GROCERY SHOP. What is wrong with me? I waited YEARS to have this kind of implied freedom!

What's wrong with me? Exactly what I said. My son is old enough to be at a party without his parents. My daughter is old enough to be home doing something that doesn't require constant supervision by her parents aside from making sure she doesn't escape or light something on fire. Escape? I digress.

The small child in the car in front of me is a reminder that those days are long gone for me. My kids' hands are almost as big as mine. They're creeping up to nearly as tall as I am. They are finishing fifth and third grades in less than 48 hours. It wasn't that long ago that I was a blubbering mess trying to grasp sending Ethel to kindergarten. Now I'm a blubbering mess watching those cute little matchstick fingers wave in the air from the window of that car. I flashed back to the days of long distance commercials that would reduce me to a small puddle on the floor in a mere 28 seconds.

I finally gathered my blubbering mess together and got my shopping done and drove home. You'd think the whole thing was over at this point, wouldn't you? Think again. As I opened the door and entered our family room, my daughter turned and looked in my direction. There stood this beautiful, gawky, long-limbed tween that has inhabited the being of my first born. She's more praying mantis than child these days with growth spurts forcing her arms and legs to unnatural looking lengths. There is a confidence in her face that I'm envious of. She is so sure of herself as she looks to see what she hears, then rolls her eyes as she realizes it's just me. She is caught between the toothless little girl without a care, and the tall drink of water who thinks she's OK to call her parents by their first names and sling insults at them like it's sport. She is teetering on that fine line between sitting in Daddy's lap and slamming her bedroom door for privacy. She is a skilled eye roller, "NO" yeller, and foot stomper. She is fighting for independence while trying desperately to hang on to the last threads of early childhood.

The hits keep coming. It's now time to collect Fred from the birthday party I deposited him at earlier. Gone are the days when my kids would run to me and cry, "Mommy" and jump into my arms. Today they'd knock me down and I'd be in traction if they did that, so I guess I'm OK with that part being over. Clearly, the hosts were pretty done with the room full of eight and nine year olds, as I heard, "Fred, your mom's here!" before I even got to the door. The collective groan from the kids was not exactly silent, and then I got "the stare". You know, the "why are you here already?" look that's tossed at you from behind innocent little eyes. He just looked at me with such disgust that I would dare come to pick him up and take him home when he was having a perfectly good time with his friends. Sorry, Kid, you're coming home with me. Seeing him in a room of his peers was all I needed to see to know that this boy is no longer my little guy (the size of his shoes should have told me that, duh). He looked older, grown up, more, well, grown up.

All in one day, I had this gross realization that my kids are getting older. Recently, Ethel reminded me that I am, too, by telling me she looks nothing like me because...wait for it...."you have wrinkles". Thanks, girlie.

In a couple days, Ethel will leave the halls of elementary school and enter the big bad world of junior high school. Fred will become a fourth grader and be near the top of the food chain of the grade school. Holy hell, how did that happen?

I am so glad that I had a little money in the budget for a bottle of wine to enjoy that night. I'm more glad that we had the evening free and could nestle ourselves on the couches to try to watch a movie together...until the kids picked something I just couldn't stomach, even with wine, so I left them to watch their movie. Just the two of them. Enjoying a summer night together at home. And I know these nights won't last forever.

June 5, 2013
June 5, 2016


Monday, March 21, 2016

Time to dust things off

Talk about a bad blogger. I am disappointed in myself for not posting a single entry in all of 2015. That cannot be repeated.

I have long been wanting to write again, and just haven't made the time. I've always had the time, I just haven't taken it for writing, and I am ready to change that.

I vow to get back to it. I was so good about writing before, and I slipped away from it. It's a good outlet and I always felt good when I was writing more often. It's time to commit! No more excuses.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Helping hands

A can of green beans. A loaf of bread. Fresh vegetables and fruit. For many of us, these are things that we have at our disposal in our kitchen cabinets. For others, it's a challenge to pay the rent or mortgage, and a bigger challenge to put food on the table for their family. In partnership with the Itasca Walk-In Ministry, the Itasca Food Pantry provides local families with vital resources to put meals on the table when they need it most. Today, the food pantry serves 75 families in Itasca.

This morning, members of the Itasca Runners Club and their families spent a few hours helping at the food pantry, sorting food, stocking shelves, and learning about the incredible work that the Ministry and food pantry do. The Itasca Food Pantry is one of the beneficiaries of the Club's annual Itasca Oktoberfast 5K, the Club's flagship event held every October. Proceeds from the event allow the Club to support several local charities, providing both monetary and tangible item donations to those organizations who give back to the community. Recently, the Club was able to provide a Sub Zero freezer to the food pantry, giving them more space to keep meats and other frozen goods that they provide to their clients.
Volunteers tour the room of stocked shelves

A newer offering by the food pantry is the Birthday Bag program. Launched just a few months ago, the food pantry assembles bags filled with items to help make birthdays special for children aged 1-13, including a cake mix and frosting, candles, table cloths and other decorations, and age appropriate gifts. All of these items are donated to the food pantry, and parents can choose a bag for their child, already sorted by age and gender. The food pantry believes that every child should have something that makes their birthday special, even something as seemingly small as a festive table. Today, the food pantry provides bags for 70 children in their client families.

Helene presents the Birthday Bag
program to volunteers
The Runners came to work, and that's exactly what we did! Adults and children alike went to work sorting canned foods from boxed foods, stocking the shelves so clients can find what they need, filling boxes with toiletries and personal items, and cleaning the work room.
Father and son, working hard
Dan and Mark filling crates
with meats
Jim stocking shelves
Teamwork at its best
These kids worked hard!
Club members learning about
the Walk-In Ministry

The food pantry presented the Itasca Runners Club
with a certificate of appreciation for their
continued support of the food pantry's mission.

Members of the Itasca Runners Club.
Club members and
future Club members their children.

I will be the first one to admit that our family does not volunteer nearly enough. When you hear the stories of families who spend years donating to the food pantry, only to find themselves later needing the pantry's services, it is inspiring to witness the work that the women and men who run the pantry do for their community. Through generous donations from the community, as well as partnerships with the village, local food stores, and a regional food bank, they are able to provide a vital service to the community. In today's world, none of us ever knows if or when we might need a service like this one, and it's nice to know that it is there when emergency assistance is needed.

Have you volunteered lately? Do you know where your local food pantry is? Call your local village hall to learn more about the health and human services that they provide to your community.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Girls on the Run 5K, Mommy/daughter run!

I had the pleasure of running a 5K with my daughter yesterday. Ethel participated in Girls on the Run this spring, and yesterday was one of the program's regional races. Ethel asked me at the beginning of the program if I would be her running buddy, and I jumped at the chance.

Ethel is not one to jump at the chance to do anything physical. This is not to say this child is entirely sedentary, but physical activity is not her forte. I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed to do the GOTR program, but not just because I'm a runner. I want her to be involved with kids outside her tight-knit class, and I want her to see that sports can be fun and rewarding.

There were lessons throughout the program about teamwork, bullying, and nutrition. She asked me several times about whether certain foods are healthy or not, and why we eat certain foods and not others. Don't get all crazy on me here, she still eats less than a baby robin. That's another topic for another day.

I offered a couple times to jog around the block with her to give her some additional practice for her race, but she declined. She was quite firm that she was doing only this 5K, nothing more and nothing less. There will be no other races, no other running. Well, OK then.

There were a couple nights when she would share her thoughts with me about the race. One night she told me that in the race, we'd start out slower and then get faster. One day last week when I proposed an outing, she told me she was resting so she wasn't too tired for her 5K. This was the night before she ran around the field at the college track where I had a track workout. Well played.

Anyway, she's not a morning person by any stretch, so having to be at the school by 6:15AM was really a hit. I thought she might never get out of bed. She argued, yelled, and walked the 1.5 blocks to school with her arms folded, brow furrowed, and lips pursed. This all changed once we got to school and her friends began to arrive, of course.

Feel the excitement
Seeing Ethel with her friends is really a peek into a world that I know nothing of. She is so vibrant, silly, and funny around her friends. Not that she's not these things at home, but, the silly side is entirely different than the silly side at home. I love it! I watched her on the bus as she and her friends chatted and giggled and described the feeling of leaning their heads and faces on the windows as the bus drove along. It's also reassuring to see other children interested in talking to your child, and genuinely enjoying their time together.

Fast forward to race time. Ethel held my hand while we waited in our corral for our start. I was surprised by this because she is not a hand holder. I repeat, not a hand holder. I tried my best not to make anything of it, but I did whisper in her ear that I was happy to be there with her. She forced herself not to grin. It was awesome.

As in any race, that first maybe mile or so is always congested. Try navigating the crowded mile with hundreds of third thru eighth grade girls and their running buddies all running at different paces, many of which, like us, are holding hands. That first mile was actually the most energetic of them all, as one might expect. The kids figure they need to run, and kids don't really have the whole "I should pace myself" mentality, so they go balls out for a while, 'til they lose steam. Then they walk. At 0.4 miles. And the cycle continues for 3.1 miles.

I heard more than once, "If this old lady can do it, so can you!", as mothers tried to coax their daughters to pick up the pace. It was actually very cool to see so many parents, both moms and dads, who aren't runners but who were really giving it their all and supporting their daughters. Ethel and I agreed to walk through the water stops, but I told her, "You can walk through it, but you have to run to it!". And we did. It was a really warm morning, so I made sure that Ethel took plenty of water at the stops. She even dumped a cup of water on her head at one of them!

There were several teams where all the girls and their running buddies wore tutus. It was pretty cute, actually. So at one point, I told Ethel, "You're not going to let a little kid in a tutu finish ahead of you, are you?". Her response? "Really, Mom?" {insert eye roll} I actually think that with all the eye rolling (like, out of their heads style) that morning, it's a wonder nobody stepped on one along the course. Pretty funny, if you ask me, albeit annoying at the same time.

This event is not timed, but I am CompetiMom, and needed to know how we finished. I wore my Garmin. Yes, that was me, hitting the <start> and <stop> buttons at the start and finish, as if it were one of my own races. I am proud to say, though, that Ethel and I finished, HAND-IN-HAND, in 43:31!! For her first 5K, I thought it was awesome!

We were both thrilled to have done this together. Fred and Hot Dad came and watched and cheered us on, and when we saw them just before the finish, cheering for us, I caught a beaming smile flash across Ethel's face. Then disappear. It was beautiful.

Here we are, just before the finish:

Feeling the energy of the crowd
We each got a medal. I gave her a great big hug. She wriggled away and went and sat with her friends. She laughed and celebrated. Then we went to IHOP to eat. It was a beautiful morning.

A before picture
I didn't get any pics of the two of us with my own camera, but, I did take a pic of the girls and some of the running buddies:

Fine looking group!
Best of all, she said she'll do it again next year. Mommy's doing the happy dance!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Coming back to something you've spent time away from is not as easy as it might sound. Not that long ago, I was involved in the Mommy Project 52 where I posted an entry at least once a week, but usually more often. Looking back, I don't know how I ever found the time. On the other hand, I don't know how I have not found the time to write more in the last year or so. For me, it's time to change that.

The last six months have been busy. I did complete my first marathon, and have yet to offer a summary of that amazing experience. It deserves more than "it was a great experience", and I will give it due credit by making the time to write about it.

I've also been busy this school year in my first term as PTO President at the kids' school. It's only logical when you're a wife, mother of two, full time corporate employee, and training for your first marathon to take on a leadership role in a struggling group that needs direction, right? I thought it took forever to get things done in the corporate world, but oh how wrong I was. If you think corporate politics are tough, you haven't seen anything until you've worked with the education system. Between trying to strengthen a bare bones parent group, researching and dreading Common Core implementation, and learning how to communicate with educators, it's been quite the learning process, to say the least. I have also become interested and involved with the local School Board and Education Foundation for our District. What an eye opener it is to see the inner workings of the school system, and learn about the challenges faced by parents and educators alike, and how disconnected the two truly are (to no fault of either, really). Still, it's interesting and if I can do anything to advocate for the best for my kids, and my tax dollars, I'll do it.

Ethel turned nine in November, and we hosted our first sleepover birthday party. Nights like that make you thankful for pharmaceuticals and wine. These are the makings of treasured memories, though, and Ethel was thrilled to have her closest friends all in one room, enjoying movies, snacks, and laughter. It really was fun for everyone, even little brother, Fred. One thing to remind me of if I ever entertain the idea of a sleepover - don't let Daddy off the hook and make plans out with friends. Ya, going solo is one thing, going solo with five eight and nine year old girls is another. Repeat thanks for wine.

As far as Ethel's school year is going, we couldn't be prouder. She is an avid reader, and when I say avid, I mean that every waking moment is spent with her nose in a book. She is fascinated with Greek mythology and is counting every second until the October release of the next installment in the adventures of Percy Jackson. She has continued her excellent performance in math, loves science, and, of course, reads like a machine. This year she is participating in Girls on the Run. I couldn't be happier, and she's asked me to be her running buddy in the 5K at the end of the program. Yeah! We're looking forward to it, and hoping to make it a family affair.

The plague avoided us this holiday season, so it was much more pleasant than 2012. We kicked it off with our annual wine and cheese early in December. The 2013 party, a "Wine and PJ's, I Mean Cheese", was our biggest to date. Easily 100 people made their way through the house, most donned in some version of sleep wear, tasting wines, cheeses, and whatever food found its way into the house. The evening ended early the next morning with a dance party to rival Dance Fever in its heyday. All in all, it was our best party yet, and the bar is now set very high for 2014.

The winter of 2013-2014 took its toll on all of us. To say that it was a tough winter is barely scratching the surface of Chicago's 3rd snowiest winter on record. It wasn't just the snow, but the bitterly cold, aptly named, Polar Vortex. A seemingly endless cycle of snow and cold forced us to stay inside most of the winter, even causing school to be canceled four days in January. This also got in the way of any consistency in my running. Twice we were forced to an indoor track due to icy roads, and just about every week there was a generous snow fall that messed with everything. I really fell off the wagon, and am still struggling to get back to my running routine. The fact that my husband started running right around the time of the marathon didn't help matters much. After a while, he was running more than I, and this is not a healthy change for me. Now that the weather has broken, I am slowly getting back to the sport that I love.

Fred turned seven in March. His birthday party was much easier than his sister's. We took a couple of his friends to go see Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Hilarious movie, by the way, equally enjoyed by the kids and me and Daddy. After the movie we went back to our house for play and cupcakes, and it was a big hit. Fred has developed and grown in many ways since turning six. Not only has he physically sprouted, probably adding at least a half inch in height, he has blossomed at school. Since August, he has made many more new friends, become the featured beat-boxer in music class, and emerged as our very own little Good Will Hunting. His love for sports stems from a fascination with numbers and stats. Everything he does revolves around numbers, and after meeting with his teachers, we're trying to harness the power of this beautiful mind.

Work is work. I just had my 18 year anniversary with my company, which just blows my mind. I was barely older than that number when I started there! Last year I had a major change in my work schedule. After 8 years of being able to work three days in the office and two from home, I had to return to the office five days a week. This may not seem like a big deal, but I am still adjusting, 13 months later. Our child care expense more than doubled, and I lost a lot of time at home. No longer can I toss in a load of laundry, sit with the kids to do their homework a couple days a week, or have dinner on the table by 5 twice a week. First world problems, yes, but adjusting to this new schedule has been hard for all of us. We've created a new normal with this change, and so far we're managing to stay afloat. Still, I am thankful to have a stable career which helps me provide for my family. I'd like to say I wish I could stay home, but I know the grass always looks greener on the other side, so I'll remain thankful for the arrangement we have.

I couldn't tell you what we are busy with except just getting through each day. We run, play, work, go to school, not necessarily in that order. So often I tell myself I'll make time that night, or tomorrow, or over the weekend to spit out the blog post I just drafted in my head. Not running much lately has messed with my mind big time, and not blogging hasn't really helped matters because I need a place to dump my thoughts. How about if I try to post at least once a week? I'm sure I can do that. It's long overdue.

I'll leave you with a recent shot of the kids.
We love Easter morning!