I have tried to keep diaries before. But they didn't work out because of the necessity to be honest. -John Steinbeck

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Day and Anniversary Day

First day of first grade for Theo.  After our weekend in La Crosse, I fell asleep early and woke, of my own accord, at 5:30 a.m.  I thought that everyone else would follow suit, but the rest of the crew slowly started rolling out of bed at 6:45, and by 7:00 I was saying "GET UP!"  I spent my quiet time unpacking my suitcase and doing some yoga.  I started with a variation of sun salutation and then half moon pose with hands-to-feet pose.  No yoga since last Thursday, and even on my own I could feel the strain in my muscles.  Noted (and see below).

I made a chart for school lunches: five days per week of main item, three sides, and a snack, on a four week rotation.  Takes the thinking out of morning preparation.  As I worked today, I thought about our morning and afternoon routines.  Last year was so different:  Ger would leave for work and take Quentin to day care.  I waited with Theo for the bus, which arrived at 8:30, and pick him up from the bus at 4:00, then would get in the car and drive to day care to get Quentin.  Ger would get home at 6:30.  We barely had adjusted to Ger working from home before the school year was over.  But now I take Quentin in the morning, and I pick Theo up from the bus, but Ger goes to get Quentin.  Which means that my morning time with Theo has now switched to about an hour in the afternoon instead of time until his brother arrives home.  Also like FINDING TIME in the morning since I can drop Q off and start my day, without needing to wait until that bus shows up!  Wonderful for me, since I am a morning person. 

I started thinking about that afternoon hour.  In the mornings, I would make his lunch, help him with homework, and read a chapter from whatever book we were reading.  Sometimes we would take a walk.  I tried to translate that into the afternoon time.  I could still help with his homework, and we could do a walk on nice days and read.  But he has also started to read on his own, and I thought of the time where he might be working on homework.  THAT is where I magically discovered my at-home yoga time.  His desk and my yoga mat are both located in the basement, and his homework usually does not take more than 15 minutes, so I can try to commit to working on poses at home while he does his homework.  I also want to work on carving out some time to read (since I have discovered that I have zero ability to stay awake reading at night and want nothing more than Netflix and bed), so I thought he and I could have some reading time together.  Still take walks.  And since Theo's goal in life seems to be to follow rules, I thought I could try to make him my accountability partner.  He and Quentin have an "No School/Weekend" chart to earn screen time, so I made a "Before/After School" chart for both parents and child.  Framed them up and together with my lunch menu plan, we are all set for the school year.

My employer celebrates a huge milestone today: 20 years as a company.  I have been with the company for 10 of those 20 years.  I don't think I had ever, ever envisioned myself working for a software company.  I wanted to be a writer from the time I could pick up a pencil.  Then became more pragmatic and discovered I had a knack for banking, but thought I would end up working in a bank.  Yet here I am, ten years later and loving what I do.  Let me be the example that your college degree may end up having NOTHING to do with your job!  I found myself reflecting today on how the company had taken a chance on me ten years ago, shortly after I started.  I had turned in my two weeks' notice and was headed to another company when I was told I could work from home.  Quite a risk on a brand-new employee, only six months into the job.  How well that turned out, and how different my life would have been otherwise.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back Home

We hit the road early this morning, after I had an unnerving dream about our home threatened to be covered in lava from a volcano as we were driving home.  I woke up, even more eager to be home.  Vacation was nice, but I was ready to be back in my own space.

Barely back from one vacation and I'm already plotting the next (Door County 2017?) because I think it will need more advanced planning around dates with the end/beginning of the school year, and where we send them to summer camp going forward.

We arrived home, hopeful that maybe the kids would take a nap.  Notsomuch, as the bi-weekly cleaning team arrived a mere ten minutes after we did, and I had to respond to some work emails.  Ger offered to take the kids to the library, but Quentin fell asleep almost immediately upon getting back into the car, so they drove around.  Eventually they swung back and picked me up so that I could take Theo into Trader Joe's while Ger stayed in the car with sleeping Quentin.  We were stocking up on school supplies: applesauce pouches, string cheese, sliced ham, etc.  I have a four-week rotation of meals, so I can look at the menu for the week and buy the appropriate food.  His backpack is ready, I am washing the cloth exterior of his lunch box, doing laundry so that he has his full range of choices for his first day: ready to go!

Morning routine includes me taking Quentin to day care, and Ger walking Theo to the bus.  At dinner, I said that I would drop Q off early, so I could be there for Theo's first day getting on the bus for first grade, but Ger was fairly insistent that it was his moment with Theo.  I relented, and agreed to take the photos I wanted before I left.

I also spent the evening organizing my photos, at least for the month of July 2017.  For years and years, I have organized my photos by year and then by month.  Now each month has three subfolders: Adventures, Moments, and Other.  Adventures contain groups of photos, like from trips or visitors.  Moments include single shots that I take throughout the day.  Other includes screen shots of quotes or other things I end up with on my phone.  Between printing MySocialBook at the end of the year and having ChatBooks of my Instagrams, that captures almost everything in Moments.  I had previously prepared huge books of ALL photos for the year, but now realize the duplication since I have discovered MySocialBook and ChatBooks.  I'll only need to do a book of our Adventures, much less work.  Now need to go back and at least organize the photos for this year.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Growing Up

Parents hear the words constantly: "They grow up so fast." "Slow down, time."  "Before you know it, it's over."  I've heard the words even from friends, with kids in the same age range as my own.  Most of the time, I brush off the phrase, or even resent it, since it doesn't reflect my outlook at all.  I know I am in the minority in that regard. 

I rarely think these thoughts, and it crossed my mind again as we head into another school year.  I don't look back at the past (nearly) seven years with Theo and wonder where the time went.  I know where it went: it was nights breastfeeding, and first words, and toddler stubbornness, and watching him play with other kids, and day care, and swimming lessons, and getting on the school bus.  My personality is such that I don't look back at those moments with a distant longing; I look forward to the next chapter with excitement and anticipation in watching him continue to mold as a person.  My greatest accomplishment as a parent will be sending my child off into the world.

What has stung me a bit lately is hearing some people say "There goes my last baby!" (Starting school or whatever).  I think, bitterly, "Good for you, that your family is complete" while I do not yet know if my youngest child is my last child, nor did I ever think that my youngest child was going to be my last child.

I thought it this weekend, living in the current moment, as I took around a hundred photos of our family trip.  I've heard the phrase "Put down the phone/camera - live in the moment!"  To me, the photos are the moments.  I never tire of looking back through photos of previous years and remembering the shot I took of the kids with friends, or the kids holding hands, or eating dinner.  Ever year, every month in the year, I take the time to organize the photos into printed albums, hundreds of pages filled with my efforts.  The photos of those moments will be my memories, when my kids have gone out into the world.  Or if the phrase finally enters my head "Where did the time go?"

This morning I captured such a moment, with such a thought.  My four-year-old was snuggled next to me in our cabin bed.  He had wedged himself into the crook of my side, and reminded me of when he nestled against me during feedings as an infant.  In that moment, his face reminded me so much of a baby.  As I write this though, he is an ever-evolving four-year-old, looking through the pages of a book as we settle in for the night.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beautiful County

We are sitting on the front porch of a secluded cabin in Coon Valley, watching the sun descend.  Theo is running around the huge expanse of space, reminding me of the carefree roaming of my childhood in the coulee.  Quentin is sitting across from me, coloring a picture.  Ger wants to start a fire soon.  And I am writing.  Earlier today, we saw a tractor go through the field behind the cabin, driven by a boy no more than 10 years old.  It is serene.

A few weeks ago, we were talking about corn at dinner and made a quick decision to travel to my hometown of Holmen, WI for the annual Kornfest.  The timing happened to be perfect, as it is the last weekend before school starts.  I likely haven't been to Kornfest since high school, but have family in the area.  We usually stay with my aunt and uncle, but my sister and her fiancĂ© also happen to be visiting this weekend and had already planned on their guest room as accommodations.  So as an alternative, we turned to Airbnb and found a small cabin.  After a late start and some backed-up traffic, we arrived in Holmen, took a pizza out to my aunt and uncle's house, and checked into our cabin late last night.  We quickly learned that it had no WiFi and no TV... Not a huge deal, since we have good cell service (other than burning through a lot of data).  The cabin has a loft with twin beds, but a steep ladder to access and we did not feel comfortable with Quentin going up and down the ladder.  Ger and Theo got the twin beds, and Quentin slept with me in the lower bedroom.  My kiddo likes to roll toward the middle of the bed, so I spent the night shoving him back over to his side.

We woke up at 7:00 and a quick search of the area took me to a new local cafe, across the street from where Ger and I went to college.  In a stroke of coincidence, my brother's girlfriend and her mother walked in, right as we were leaving.  Only in a small town!  We had plans to attend the Kornfest parade, but the weather was iffy, so we stopped by Target to get hoodies all around since we were ill-dressed.  Arrived at the parade an hour early to stake out a spot, the exact location that we used to sit in my entire childhood.  The kids were enthralled by the parade, and the constant tossing of candy.  I think we have only been to one other parade before, years ago.  Better than Halloween, they decided, since they didn't have to walk around to get the candy.  I saw several familiar faces from my many years in this area.  Lunch was chicken, baked beans, bread, and roasted CORN - the best corn on the planet, on the cob, slathered with butter and salt.

The kids were insistent on attending the fair grounds, but the sky was foreboding.  The rain had held off for the parade, but it began to sprinkle as we allowed them to pick ONE activity (the bounce house).  Back to the cabin and naps all around.  We headed to an old favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner, then have settled back in for the night.  

The cabin is a decent drive from Holmen, so as we drove around today, Ger and I talked about the traveling that we want to do with the kids as they get older.  We have plans to start with small road trips next summer, with more extravagant trips as they get older.  I made a bucket list on my iPhone of the places we want to go, touching all different aspects of the United States (and later, Europe as well).   Since I am a planner, my mind instantly went to budgeting and researching so that we can make the most out of our trips.

For today, our trip is one comprised mostly of nostalgia.  We drove through the valley as it dips into La Crosse, and I said "What a gorgeous corner of the world we grew up in."

Thursday, August 18, 2016

218. What The Desk Thinks

I am a black desk.  Sturdy.  In an office with an unfortunate shade of yellow walls.


I knew the plan.  The office was going to be turned into a nursery.  There was talk that the walls were going to be repainted, maybe with a coral and teal theme.  A baby dresser moved into the room, and I knew it would not be long before I was relocated.


But instead, the baby dresser moved out.  The walls were frantically repainted, a dark brown color instead of the cheerful promise of coral and teal.  The paint job was messy, sweaty, and tear-filled.  Now I am a black desk in a dark brown office.


The brown color did not last long.  A mere ten months later, it is being repainted again.  This time the color is a dusty lavender.  It does not have the same somber effect as the brown.  It is more cheerful, hopeful.  The bedding on the day bed is changed from orange and brown to bright teals, eggplant, and florals.  The artwork is changed from a large black and white painting to a canvas of trees and an abstract seascape.


I am unsure of the intent.  Will it be a nursery again?  Will I, the desk, be moving out?  Or is this simply an attempt to brighten a room that was previously a bitter reminder?  That the hurried brown choice is now being replaced with more thoughtfulness and permanence?