Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's hot and the cows are in the dahlias

It's like that

I'm fairly certain cherries don't qualify as a protein, but when it's cherry time one cannot be bound to a commitment, dietwise, at least not a commitment which involves no fruit. Can one? I'm only asking for, um, a friend of mine. Yeah, that's it. My friend wants to know.

Down 12.5 pounds. I keep expecting to wake up and have gained it all back. Of course it's been so hot (106 here yesterday and 104 the day before; this is unheard of in our area) and I've been working so much (read: not able to find time to eat in between phone calls) that I'd probably have lost a little even if I hadn't declared war on refined flour and sugar. Right?

And because I just don't have faith in this diet despite its apparent short-term success over the last couple of weeks, it's sort of hard to be proud of myself. I'm not eating any brown rice, which was my main staple for decades. How can I be so carb-intolerant when all the complex carbs I was eating (and to be truthful, to which I plan to return) were so healthy? Why-oh-why.

Tonight I'm having a cold pesto zucchini salad. Yum-yum. Oh, and some cherries.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The sad, sad view from my 'burban

Some weeks we have the hammock, the sandbox, the garden, the bookshelves and trips to the library or lake. These are the weeks when breathing is deep enough to fill my lungs and my brainwaves are blissfully uninterrupted by static.

Other weeks we live in the Suburban. I drop the kids at my friend Marian's house. They wave from her picture window. I negotiate real estate and administrate personnel and payroll issues and try to remember to buy toilet paper and then I pick the girls up. It sometimes seems like they never left that window because they're usually there, hopping up and down and requesting dinner, when I pull in six hours later.

On those weeks I hope to decompress in the 20-minute drive from my office(s) to Marian's house. Sometimes on Fridays it's not Marian but Grandpa who has the girls. Then I don't have to be concerned with being "on" for them, because they don't even bother to climb out of the swimming pool when I drive up.

I have always thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom. I garden, bake, sew and do laundry like a homebody. And yet I've always worked outside the home. When Madeleine and Sarah were still small, I was an editor with wonderful privileges to work from home as much as I liked. To bring the babies in to my office as much as I liked. Or didn't. So I thought, in my own way, that I was prioritizing things and I was still a mom first. Even when Madeleine could identify non-parallel sentence structures at 3 years old, I never thought of myself as a working mom.

And I know this is a loaded topic.

Of course. But all I can think about today is the sad view from my Suburban seat.


Edited to add:
I know I know this is whining and ridiculous. How lucky am I to have a trusted friend who can handle all four of my kids along with her three? How lucky am I to have a career (or three) in this economy? I just needed a minute to mourn my other life as Ma Ingalls. That's all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

But then again I had ice cream

Woke up this morning slightly less irritable over the diet.

The scale wasn't down at all, but it wasn't up either. I rationalized that I have been losing steadily for two weeks --10.5 pounds down now.

Then I remembered that I had ice cream yesterday.

Hey, it was 105 degrees outside and we had a three-hour-drive (think Gilligan's Island, first episode) with Laura the Chatterbox (loudmouth would be more alliterative but she is my darling baby after all) and Gracie the Gleeful on our way to drop Madeleine and Sarah with their Tia for a week of fun and games (and me doing all the horse/rabbit/chicken/garden chores. oy).

I earned that ice cream. And so did my hips.

But today it's back on the wagon. How about you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Clean is relative

There's the Suite dog at the lake. Voted Least Likely to Run Off, he still abides by the leash law whenever not retrieving sticks from the water.

Sarah having a moment with her birthday pinata before it was beaten to shreds and subsequently worn as a hat by the eldest party attendee.

The senorita is nine. 9. Her last year in the single digits, people.

And here are the three silliest senoritas on their way to camp. Madeleine, the girls' best friend Megan, and Sarah peeking out from behind the mountain o' stuff sacks and sweatshirts.
When I picked them up they were all wearing the same clothes they left in. And I can't speak for Megan, but most of the clothing in my girls' packs was still folded. As Madeleine told me, "at camp, clean is relative."

I did receive a couple of letters after all. One was wadded in the bottom of the backpack under two damp swimsuits and a stack of folded jean shorts. One came in the mail three days after the girls returned home. Go, Mr. Postman, go. But don't hurt yourself on that pony.
A short quote from Madeleine's long letter:
"It is better than I expected! I got a bloody nose. And archery and slingshots!"
Non sequiturs run in the family.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

4H and random empty nest anxiety updates

So what you maybe don't know about the 4H fair is that, during events such as the one shown above, the bleachers are packed with parents, extended family, friends, siblings and major league scouts (just kidding about that one) but the atmosphere is hushed. It's as quiet as the 18th hole at the Masters. No one appears to so much as crunch on a chip.

One thing I love about 4H is the collaborative and community spirit. That's my husband's baby sister Makayla -- a blue ribbon winner! -- on Chance in last weekend's Western Pleasure event. Sorry about the photo but I wasn't about to break out the telephoto (zipping camera bag, clicking lenses) or use the (heaven forbid) flash while she was out there. I'm pretty sure the 4H community would've then collaborated to excuse me from the event.

Somehow even the ordinarily rambunctious Laura caught the quiet vibe at the horse show. Good thing, too, because I would not have liked to carry her out into the hot sun and then chase her around while the events went on.

We try to limit our chasing of Laura. To places like Powell's Bookstore, the library and the park:

Look! They were all engaged in the same activity for a moment. That was nice. Especially since it came to my attention recently that Madeleine will be leaving for college when Laura's in first grade. That was not very nice, people. I can feel the empty nest syndrome working itself up for a good anticipatory cry.

Sarah and Madeleine are home from the next-to-last sleepaway camp of the summer. They had blast: Maddy hit three bulls eyes and Sarah was sorely cheated in the archery rounds (at least the way I'm told the story) by a line judge who couldn't see her bulls eyes. Bulls' eyes? Bulls-eyes? Spelling schmelling, they had a great time with all their new best girlfriends

Yikes! Look at that baby face! She's still clearly my baby. She loves to wash her face. And I love to let her do it. Because? Dimples.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just keep swimming...

Or is that 'keep climbing?'

I mix up my Disney sometimes.

Nekkedd baby alert.

For a little while that afternoon my husband put the inner tube on a leash so as not to lose track of Laura's lakeside meanderings. Did someone say redneck? Not on this blog they dint.

In other news this week:
Madeleine and Sarah return from camp (yes, again!) tomorrow.
This past week they've been learning archery, riding other peoples' horses and swimming every day and in general (a-hem) not writing home. I think this is supposed to somehow prepare me for the ultimate separation anxiety of their (don't say it out loud) eventually growing up and leaving home.
It happens in increments so small, more minute than the slow tick of the second hand, that I am lulled into complacency: My babies are little. Well, at least last time I measured.
But I blinked and the oldest two are really not babies at all. Their opinions alone are enough proof of that. Their abilities and likes and dislikes -- all evidence mounting steadily in the case for growing up independent and smart and funny and confident and all the things we theoretically want for our children but then we get whiplash when we recognize that the development of those same qualities in our children means they're less dependent. That they don't (temporarily, I hope) think mom is all that funny any more. At least not as funny as the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
They're excited to know things I don't know. Like archery, for instance. And how to program the remote.
But back to the news (or what we like to call newsworthy):
I'm on a diet. Six pounds of sheer misery and no carbs in sight. I'll keep you posted unless I fail miserably. Also, it's a little competition with my carb-cheating buddy Kate. So go cheer her on if you want. Just not more than you cheer for me.
In the first day of the protein festival I accidentally ate chocolate. In my defense I was cleaning the kitchen while taking a VERY STRESSFUL phone call (gotta love the real estate market when it causes me to be compulsive about my countertops) and then I found a chocolate under the crockpot. You don't keep chocolate under your crockpot, you say? It's an excellent hiding spot since no one in your family is likely to touch that appliance. Just sayin'.
Anywhat I was wiping down the counters, cradling the phone to my red hot ear and listening intently to the demise of yet another deal when I spied the Dove delightfulness and UNCONSCIOUSLY unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth. (Or would that be subconsciously? Whatever. I wasn't really paying attention.)
I realized what I was doing almost immediately so... people... dear readers... I SPIT IT IN THE TRASH.
This was the moment at which I knew Atkins can cause insanity.
Also this was the moment a nice loan officer thought I was hawking up a disgusting unknown item or maybe wretching at the aforementioned demise of the deal. Little does he know that no mere commission loss could be as tragic as the waste of good chocolate.
Six pounds, people. And only forty more to go.
And BACK TO THE NEWS (the digressions get worse with Atkins insanity, don't they?):
Laura had her 18-month checkup this afternoon. She's perfectly healthy, no ill effects of the last visit. I did remember to bring a latte for the nurse. So besides being healthy and happy, she's a COMPLETE PILL. She kicked the doctor. She yelled "noNOnoNOnoNO" at the top of her lungs to all of his questions. Except she counted to five for him (baby genius, I know) and she hasn't even done that for DADDY yet.
Other nurses came in to admonish her that she's six months early for the terrible twos.
After the doctor visit we (Grace (the model big sister all afternoon) Laura and I) went to visit Grandma and Grandpa in their back yard. Laura wickedly approached the gorgeous potted flowers with a glint in her eye. At the last minute she stopped pulling on the blossom and took a big sniff instead. She knows how to push Grandma's buttons. And just so he didn't feel left out, she laughed uproariously at Grandpa's jokes and tickling but refused to do any tricks for him either. No counting. No saying new words. No show here, folks. She even refused to distract them from their incredulous response to my news that I'm going back to school. (Who said Dad doesn't read this blog?)
Contrary. Next thing you know she'll be growing up and off to camp just to prove me wrong. Or right. I can't keep it straight because I need some CARBOHYDRATES.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Getaway bike

That's not even my picket fence.

That's not even my cottage.

I did take the photo.

But it's not even my bike.

So what's wrong with the picture?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Breaking news on the farm

So Tuesday I scrambled. I scrambled farm fresh eggs for breakfast and then I scrambled to make deadlines. It came on without warning. Monday was rather uneventful: only the normal amount of post-weekend freaking out about scheduling issues and sleep deprivation. Madeleine was to spend the day at the barn; Sarah had a play date with her friend Noelle; my former neighbor Christy visited with her brand-new baby. Joy! Monday was fun and a fitting calm-before-the-storm-0f-Tuesday.
Little did I know as I cracked the eggs into the pan on Tuesday morning that I'd be facing crises on what seemed to be every front: real estate, personal finance, parenting, business, health. As I told my husband, by the end of the day my insides were tangled barbed wire. My thought processes were so disconnected that I'd dial the phone while repeating my intention for the call, out loud, to myself, so as not to forget it by the time someone answered. (I'm aware this makes me sound more than a little nuts.) And heaven forbid the phone should ring! So of course it did, incessantly bringing more news of urgency and import.
A client's short sale was barely beating the scheduled sheriff's sale of foreclosure and so naturally hit a big snag that threatened the deal and necessitated my administering real estate mouth-to-mouth (just as gross as CPR; even more spit involved). Another listing was inexplicably the victim of an attempted break-in. Long-promised and financially essential receivables were delayed (again). The girls were uncharacteristically snappish with one another, picking up on my stress no doubt. We visited the dentist: Grace needed work. We saw the doctor: Sarah added asthma to her list of crosses to bear.
Tuesday, in short, was lousy. I felt like Sandra Bullock in "Speed," an adrenaline-powered flick that requires the heroes to keep their miles per hour above 65 in a crazy car chase of doom without crashing the bus or (hmm... how did that work?) running out of gas. Of course I drank a couple of quadruple-shot lattes, so that probably didn't help with my jitters either.
Wednesday continued the theme. After waking up still possessed of a tangled-wire constitution, I put more than 200 miles on the Suburban. And to quote Sarah I "didn't even go anywhere good." Place lockboxes. Meet locksmith. Plant signs. Prepare invoices. Answer cell phone ad nauseum. (Try not to remember that it's illegal now to drive while talking on the phone.) Pick up checks. Fax eighty seven thousand pages. Drop off checks. Call mortgage companies, title companies, other Realtors-who-don't-work-as-hard-as-I. Drop off kids. Pick up kids. Forget ballet lesson. Remember horses, chickens, rabbits, gargantuan garden. Deer have walked through the as-yet-unbuilt gates and eaten the tops of the tomato plants. Forget to hang bathing suits to dry. Curse silently in lieu of self-lullaby while husband works late. (Or early into Thursday, to tell the truth.)
Thursday. Oh. My. Word. If it could have gone on like that, I'm not sure I'd even have the heart to blog it for you.
Let me just say that on Thursday, I re-enrolled in school. The President wants me to finish my MFA. Did you know that? Yeah, he pretty much called me from Russia to say, "Hold on Michelle, I'm on the line with Miriam. Yes. Miriam, I am thinking maybe you need to immerse yourself in academia where you can return to your bookworm ways. I'm thinking there are grants for this and then you can stop running around like a proverbial chicken with its... well... that's a little graphic for an international phone line....
"Thanks for taking my call, Miriam. Michelle sends her best."
All kidding aside. (And here, although it's probably not necessary, I feel the need to tell you that in fabricating that phone call I am making a lame joke about the even-lamer-yet-oddly-compelling ads running all over the Internet. Obama wants moms to go back to school. I took it personally.)
Thursday I actually pulled into my alma mater, parked the biggest vehicle seen on campus ever (not counting the 22-passenger Outdoor Adventure van) and spoke with the English Department about getting back into the MFA program. I went by the registrar's office and, you know, four kids later, re-enrolled. For Fall Term. A nice woman even said, "welcome back," which I thought was funny since it's been more than a decade.
Is this fantastic or what?
I may freak out later (okay, that's pretty much a given) but for right now I just feel so much better. It doesn't make the real estate crises go away, or the business climate improve, or my tomato plants whole again, but it sure does lighten my perspective.
Also it added a little brick of solid gold to something I like to call hope for the future.
Last night, after impetuously choosing this huge life change, I stopped in at the regular Thursday night gathering called "Bread Club" in a small town near me. I bought some homemade feta cheese and a few onions from a woman who actually lives across the road from my farmhouse. I burst out with my story. She was the second person I'd told (I did call my husband) and I was just so joyous that my artesian news bubbled right out and laid itself on the Bread Club table for the first near-stranger I saw.
People, I am not even ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes. It was not the onions.
"What will you do with your kids?" she asked. She knows I home school our children. I don't see it as a contradiction at all, to be truthful. Why shouldn't I be immersed in learning along with my children? It seems much more natural than carting my kids along whilst selling houses or making collection calls for my husband's engineering firm, frankly.
I told her I'd figure it out as I go along. Pretty much like everything else.
For Christmas my friend Katie gave me a book called something along the lines of "How To Get Your Groove Back After Mommyhood Mush Takes Over Your Brain." Or some such thing. I didn't think I'd lost my groove. And then I remember: that's because it's a rut.
I keep hearing that nice woman in the academic advising office with her genuine words.
"Welcome back."
Is that like getting my groove back? To do something so huge, that's just for me? I don't know, but I'm excited to figure it out as I go along.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How the Suite family spent its summer

Ballet. Gymnastics. Sleepovers.

The lake. The barn. The baseball field.

Backyard hammock, Grandpa's trampoline, horseback trails.
Fairy hunting. Fairy tales. Bug catching. Bug bites. Wading pool and swimming lessons.

Mom, for one, needs a nap.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A little red, white and ka-boom!

Three mermaids at the lake: the girls' good friend Fern camps it up with Madeleine and Sarah. You'll have to trust me that was the only millisecond of the afternoon that they held still.

Fern's mom Katie and I spent most of our day chasing babies and water toys. Oh, and reapplying sunscreen only to have the children's underarms get burned by the inner tubes they floated on. Go figure. (And then go get the aloe vera.)

Sarah prayed all week for the Independence Day temps to hit 100. Something about being closer to the age of 100 (relatively speaking of course!) made me not so eager for the heat. I spent a good deal of Thursday, Friday and Saturday dragging hoses around the yard for double-time watering efforts in anticipation of the 97-degree days.

Madeleine prepared in a different way. She baked. That's her "chocolate raspberry firecracker" bundt cake. Isn't she proud? And she should be. It was delish!

At Grandpa and Grandma's house the cousins lined up for Aunt Heather's special misting attachment to cool them off.

I think it worked. That's Grace and Cayden. Two sweet peas in a pod.

There's Laura's first watermelon experience. I'm guessing it won't be her last; she liked it a little.
In fact Heather had to hose her down after eating it.

After all our fun with family and friends we sat on the neighbor's lawn and watched the children with their sparklers at dusk.
And then we hiked in to a private lake for an invitation-only fireworks display at one of the local vineyards. I don't think I could have felt more blessed this weekend. We live in a great nation. We are free to spend time with our loved ones, to worship, to own land, to participate in the decision making for our futures.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


The lavender is blooming. You'll find me lying behind that there hedge.