When I was a full-time stay-at-home-mom, I definitely had my fair share of comments from working mothers about how hard staying home was and how draining it can be on your nerves and energy. I had my moments, admittedly, but on the whole, I think I just grew used to it. That bone-tired feeling at the end of the day. The constant watching and correcting and cooking and cleaning. But after a few months of having an office and an outside focus for a few hours of my day, my stamina has declined. Because ohmygosh I am so tired chasing these kids.
I love being home and I am grateful it is summer. But these ages are no joke. A Facebook friend of mine posted a photo last week to explain she is doing an etiquette “camp” with her ten-year-old daughter this summer – complete with a walk through Emily Post’s guidebook and a final exam that culminates in a dinner party where her daughter has to correctly host and carry on conversations with invited guests. I think the idea is admirable and sweet and maybe one day I will teach these skills to my two, but I also laugh a little. My kids are two and four, and my summer plans are to keep them alive, happy, fed. That is pretty much it.
But so far we are making it and basking in the glory of some lazy days ahead. We’ve splashed around at the neighborhood pool, climbed trees, spent time with cousins and friends, and eaten outside more often than not. I know it’s the teacher in me, but summer really is my favorite.
We are on summer break, and as I read a little outside on the porch yesterday while Jude played and Norah napped, I was reminded of what a gift it is to work only 9 months a year. I will never get rich in academics, but I have a passion for what I do and as a very special bonus, I get these months off every year to exhale and re-center and spend time with my kids. It really is the perfect balance for me. My first year back at work has come to an end, and on the whole, it went really well. It feels good to have it behind me.
Last weekend was busy with the birthday of one very shy little girl. It astounds me how talkative and energetic she is when it’s only us hanging out at home – yet how incredibly shy she is in a crowd. We had such a small party this year, and she was still bashful when her big moment came.
As the week went on, I’ve crossed a few things off the to-do list with a check-up for Norah and a dermatologist appointment for me. But we also managed to squeeze in a morning of strawberry picking as well. This little farm is only a short 25 minutes up the road for us, and it was small and manageable with two kids and one mom. We had a great time.
Jude was really interested in it this year and a great berry-finder. I was genuinely impressed with his determination to only pick the very best ones! We ended up with a full gallon, and he was really proud. He’s been asking a lot of questions lately about where his food comes from, and he’s taking a new interest in gardening ideas. It’s sparked some really fun moments in the kitchen and outside.
So summer has begun in the very best way, and we are enjoying it already. We have all of next week to be lazy and get excited about our trip to Mexico next month. More soon, friends.
Somehow you are two today, and my baby doesn’t feel like such a little one anymore. This year has been monumental for you in so many ways. You run steadily rather than toddle. You use words we are beginning to understand. You process the world around you faster than we’d like sometimes. Your knowing eyes are firm, your gaze is insistent, and you have a mind of your own. I find that this is such a weird age – so big yet so little at the same time. But I guess I could say that about you every year from now on. As I grow older and as I watch you do the same, my perspective changes. It’s my favorite thing about being a mom – new eyes all the time.
I have to laugh a little as I think back on what we were doing two years ago and how you came into this world. The days that followed your entrance were so quiet and peaceful. I had relatives ask in the early weeks if you had ever cried before because they were genuinely concerned that there could be a medical reason for your silence. And in hindsight, I don’t know when you crossed that line as you became more comfortable in your own skin, but quiet is not exactly the word I would use to describe you most of the time. Happy? Sad? Angry? Excited? You tell the world, loud and clear.
You’ve found your voice, and you aren’t afraid to use it. Much of it is minimally understood by the general public right now, of course. But those of us who live with you have learned Norah-speak. We have no choice but to listen. You’ll sit (or “disss”) on the couch and yell “babink!” louder and louder and LOUDER until someone brings you the blanket you want. Same with your morning demand for water in a very particular cup (never the easily reachable one at the front of the cabinet) or the million other requests and orders you shout at us all day. Persistence, my dear. I will never have to teach you that one. But it is a trait that will serve you well, and I love that you assert your ideas and wishes already.
When I think about you as my daughter and what that means, it makes me a little nervous. I worry about the same societal pressures that have been apparent for generations but just keep getting stronger with time, it seems. But for every demand of yours to put on a fluffy dress, you request Jude’s Thor costume and have acquired a pretty convincing use of its hammer. For every time you say “princess,” you also yell “Batman!” and put on a superhero cape. You are feisty but gentle. Content but persistent. Shy but opinionated. Energetic but observant. What is it Louisa May Alcott says? You can be “a great many things.” Hold onto that idea as you grow and change. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can only be one thing. You are way more than that, and we see it already.
You have taught me so much in these months. You lead me to question my long-held assumptions about girlhood and independence and attachment and my expectations of what it means to be a mother. You have an independent streak I don’t recall seeing in your brother at this age, and though you love to be held, you wave goodbye when you want to without looking back. I know one day you’ll do this on a much bigger scale when you cross highways and continents and all kinds of symbolic thresholds without me. For now, this is hard enough. I welcome a little longer with you safely in my nest.
It’s hard for me to visualize what life will be like as you get older, especially knowing you are likely the last baby in our home. You’ll tie your own shoes one day. Grab your own snacks from the fridge. Brush your own hair. These simple tasks that fill my moments will disappear. Your interests will move far beyond me and our life together, and your dreams will get bigger and bolder. When I consider all that waits, I don’t mind your insistent hands and grunting voice reaching for me when I’m making dinner. Having done this before with your brother ahead of you, I know we are looking at your last year as such a portable little sidekick. Let’s enjoy it.
You want to be bigger, older, stronger, and I want to tell you to hold off and stay right here for a while, but I know it doesn’t do any good to wish time could pause – not now and not when you are ten or sixteen or twenty, or in my case thirty-three. So for the moment, I just take these mental photographs and try my hardest to remember every detail as you are now – still soft and squishy and compact for a little while longer. We have a lot to do together before you leave my grip.
To my mischievous, spirited, perceptive, tenacious daughter: thank you for entertaining me, for keeping me on my toes, for reminding me to pay attention and see the joy in everyday life. I love you.
Happy Birthday, Norah.
____________________*Photos snapped on my iPhone or taken during our session with Atlanta photographer Andrew Thomas Lee. *** I write letters to my kids on their birthdays. You can see Norah’s previous ones here and here. And you can read Jude’s first, second, third, and fourth letters here.
We are winding down and so ready for summer. The weather is warm here; we have a week left of school, and there are 26 days between me and the Yucatan peninsula. Not much to complain about.
Jude has been helping me often in the yard lately. We’ve worked on a few flowers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and lots of herbs. He’s so interested in it, and it’s fun to watch this hobby grow for him. He was very vocal and opinionated when the two of us went shopping for flowers. “I want this one, mom! This one will look the prettiest – don’t you think?”
We also went to a neighborhood block party a couple weeks ago with 60 kids and met so many other families! It’s great to be in a place that’s starting to feel like community. …Plus Jude won the sack race which was a crowning accomplishment he felt pretty good about. Ha. Sister loved trying to steal his candy winnings.
I hope your summer is getting off to a good start as we head toward Memorial Day. Happy weekend!
We had a cancelled neighborhood party on Saturday which was a little disappointing. But the weather improved on Sunday, and our little neighborhood shindig was rescheduled for next weekend, so in the end, I guess we just get to stretch it out over two weeks. It was a fun holiday, and I love this time of year.
I hope the holiday brought great things for you and your family!
I feel so lucky my kids’ school is my own place of work.
I’ve been able to stop by for a birthday celebration, reading to a class, or within seconds if someone is sick. Never for a second do I take this set-up for granted. It has made this year a pretty easy transition, all things considered.
Yesterday was their annual Easter Egg Hunt, and it was such a treat to watch. Georgia weather has been weirdly cold this week, but the sun showed up for Wednesday afternoon. (Plus I got to dress Norah in a hand-knit!)
This weekend is busy with another egg hunt and spring block party in the neighborhood and two family celebrations. So much happening this time of year. We seem to race from one event to another – reunions, Easter, end of the school year, Norah’s birthday. All with summer around the bend.
We are really enjoying the spiralizer I posted about earlier. I am not completely on board with Paleo diets considering my whole grain obsession, but I do love that this little gadget gets some extra vegetables in our diet. The kids love slurping the “noodles,” and Jude especially loves when I leave the pieces super long after running the zucchini through the spiralizer.
This recipe is loosely inspired by one I found here. I just changed it a bit to suit our preferences, and I simplified the prep a little.
Before you begin, mix the sauce:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of honey
Now get out your other ingredients:
- 2-3 smallish salmon fillets (Our kids usually split one.)
- 1 cup broccoli (fresh or frozen is fine, just cook longer if frozen)
- 1 sliced red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2-3 spiralized zucchini
Next I added a little oil to a large skillet and threw in my frozen broccoli. Cook until the broccoli is warm (5-8 minutes or so) and add your sliced red onion and 4 cloves of garlic. Continue stirring and cook until the onion is soft (another 5 minutes or so).
While all of that is getting started, place your salmon fillets in a separate lightly oiled skillet. Spoon out about a tablespoon of your sauce on each salmon fillet. Cook a few minutes, flip, and repeat the spoonful of sauce on the second side. I do about 4 minutes per side to get mine pretty fully cooked. But you could do 2-3 minutes for something a little closer to rare or seared salmon.
Once the salmon is cooked, I turn off the stove and let it sit in the pan. Next add your zucchini “noodles” to the other veggies and stir it all up to mix it together and get the zucchini warm. Pour what is left of the sauce onto the veggies and noodles. It only takes about 3-4 minutes to cook the zucchini because it is so thin.
That’s it! Plate it up and you’re done. I snapped the photo above very quickly with my iPhone because it was a Monday and I had tired and hungry kids at the table. The whole meal is done in 20 minutes or so – perfect for a weeknight!