Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things That Make No Sense

1.  Every morning, we ask Jemma what she wants for breakfast, and every morning, she says, "Fomps."  And nobody here can remember exactly when, but the term fomps was born a few months back on a day when Annie decided it would be yummy to add a container of yogurt to her Cheerios-and-milk breakfast.  As she was dumping the yogurt out of the container, it make a plopping sound, and as she reached her spoon up inside the container to dig spoonfuls out, she said, "Fomps, fomps."  I realize this is not a word, nor is it really even the sound that yogurt falling on Cheerios makes, but there it is:  fomps.  Sometimes the girls want "Peach fomps with strawberry cereal" which means Special K Red Berries with peach yogurt on it.  Sometimes they want "regular fomps," which is just Cheerios, a little bit of milk, and vanilla yogurt.

2.  After literally years of dithering about it, today was the day that I disappointed generations of my clean-freak, frugal Dutch ancestors and had a cleaning service come over to give me a quote.  Guess what I was doing before they came over?  That's right, cleaning my house.  The shoes!  Must be organized!  The stovetop!  Must be wiped down!  The toys!  Must be picked up!  The ever-present-floor-hair!  Must be vacuumed!  And then when the woman came in the front door, she stopped to put these little blue booties on over her shoes (like at Parade of Home houses) and I said, "Oh, please, it's so dirty in here that you don't need to wear those!"  AFTER I HAD BEEN CLEANING MOST OF THE MORNING.  I can tell it's the beginning of a long, dysfunctional relationship.

3.  The weather has been very fall-ish lately, very cool in the morning and then quite warm later in the day.  I mention this because it's difficult to dress Annie for school when she leaves to walk there in the 45-degree morning and then plays on the playground for afternoon recess when it's closer to 70.  I usually encourage her to dress in layers (short-sleeved top, sweater, fleece on top; skirt with leggings underneath on the bottom) so that she can take things off as necessary.  On Monday, however, I unthinkingly sent her to school wearing a long-sleeved dress.  When she got hot at some point during the day, she did what anyone would do:  she took that hot, long-sleeved dress off!  So when she came running out of school at the end of the day, she was wearing:

-a white, tank-style undershirt, size 3T, that I had argued with her about that very morning and told her to put in Jemma's drawer because it was too small for her;

-gray tights;

-pink tennis shoes.

Where was the dress?  In her desk.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

STOPID



On Sunday at church, Annie decided to go into a mild rage of fury because she wanted to play with the felt book that Jemma was playing with, and I would not immediately rip it out of Jemma's hands and give it to her.  Annie slunk off to pout and whimper and throw her hair around a little ways down the pew while I whispered threats and offered other things to do.  At one point, I gave her this blank pad of paper and some crayons and suggested she draw while she waited for Jemma to be finished with her turn.  This is what she did:  scribbled very hard all across a page with a blue crayon, then wrote (in case it isn't clear) "STOPID" in blue crayon, then scribbled hard over that too.

Bonus irony:  This happened right during the "Peace be with you!" "And also with you!" part of church.

Every time I look at it now, I simultaneously want to laugh, cry, and call a child psychologist.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, on a little suburban street in September, there was a fierce thunderstorm on a Tuesday night. In a home on that suburban street lived a mommy, a daddy, and two little girls. When the thunderstorm rolled into town, the two girls were sleeping, snug in bed, and the mommy and daddy had just settled down for an episode of Mad Men.

Then the rain started. The wind blew the rain sideways towards the house, the thunder boomed, and the lightening cracked until, around 9:00, it cracked in just the right place and made all the lights in the house go out. Don and Betty Draper disappeared from the television set just as a wail came from the bedroom at the end of the hall. The mommy and daddy rushed there at once.

First, one little girl woke up because her night light was no longer bathing her room in a soothing glow. Also, she did not like the thunder. The daddy went around lighting candles and finding flashlights while the mommy remembered where there were leftover glow sticks from a Hot Dog Camping birthday party. She brought one in and snuggled the girl for a few minutes, then left her with her new glow stick/night light.

Next, the other little girl woke up because her fan was no longer filling her room with a soothing noise. Also, her night light had gone out. So the mommy brought in a new glow stick/night light and snuggled with her for a minute before going to her own bed.

In the morning, the rain had stopped, but the electricity in the house still didn't work. The mommy, daddy, and two girls kept trying to do things - turning on light switches, using the garbage disposal, opening the garage door to get the stroller out - before remembering that they didn't work. They made coffee with the french press and ate breakfast by candlelight. They decided not to open the freezer at all and only opened the refrigerator twice, to get the half and half out, and to put it back.

Eventually, the daddy waved good-bye to go to work while the mommy took the little girls all the places they needed to go. While they were at the library for dance, she charged her phone. While they were at the gym for yoga, she showered and blow-dried her hair. And because the power still wasn't on when it was time to go to dance class for the second time that day, the Very Nice Mommy decided to take the girls out for dinner after the class and before her meeting at school.

At the restaurant, the little girls looked at the menu and decided what they wanted to order. The bigger girl wanted a cheeseburger. The littler girl wanted chicken fingers with honey. When the waitress came, the big girl said, "I'll have the cheeseburger, please."

The mommy looked at the little girl. "Would you like to tell the waitress what you want?" she asked. When the little girl didn't respond, she whispered, "Remember? You decided that you want the chicken fingers."

"I want the cheeseburger," declared the little girl.

The mommy's eyebrows shot up. "You DO?" she asked.

The little girl nodded at the waitress emphatically. "I want the cheeseburger," she said.

The mommy looked at the waitress and said, "She's never eaten a cheeseburger in her life, but . . ." and the waitress smiled hopefully and said, "First time for everything!" and walked away.

The girls colored and ate some root chips with goat cheese dip until their food came. The waitress set down the cheeseburger in front of the bigger girl, who nicely asked her mommy to put some ketchup on it.

The waitress set down the cheeseburger in front of the littler girl, who took one look at it and wailed, "It has meat on it!!!!" So she ate her french fries and some fruit while the mommy and the bigger girl ate their food. Then she and her big sister went to play at their friends' house while their mommy went to a meeting at school (and their daddy was STILL at work).

When the mommy picked them up, they smelled like baths and marshmallow lotion. They had eaten donuts and cider and had a dance party to Christmas music. Best of all, their daddy's car was in the driveway when they pulled in, and lights were on in their house.

So they went to bed, snug with their night lights and their fans, and the food was cold again in the refrigerator while the mommy and daddy watched the Modern Family premiere on the couch and everyone lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Questions. I Have Questions.

1. If there were a task in your life that made the majority of your days difficult for a short period of time (say, an hour or so), that made you stressed out with your children and grumpy and frustrated, but that your husband sort of expected you to do (and really appreciated and enjoyed) and, truth be told, you sort of expected it of yourself, would you keep doing it? Would you keep spending the time to do something that part of your family actively loved and expected and enjoyed, but that another part of your family made difficult and did not appreciate at all?

I am talking about making dinner, to be clear. My husband loves it, eats it, raves about it, looks forward to coming home to it after a long day. My kids don't eat it, complain about it, make me feel guilty for ignoring them from 4:30 - 5:30 while I try to get it on the table. They'd be thrilled with PB&J/macaroni and cheese/grilled cheese/kid food; my husband would not. I feel like there's a whole "If you love your family, you'll make a savory yet nutritious meal for them every night" expectation when you're a mom, too, and, truth is, I really DO love to cook. So I want to do this, and - in theory - I want our girls to grow up eating healthy food and appreciating new things and learning how to cook and bake. But the way it works - in practice - is that the girls fight or completely destroy an entire floor of the house during the time I'm cooking; I have to stop chopping onions/stirring the risotto/making the meatballs 85 times to go sort it out; and then, when we finally sit down to dinner, 9 times out of 10 the girls essentially don't eat what I've cooked. And it's so DISCOURAGING. I refuse to make separate meals, so I end up saying things like, "This is what's for dinner. Eat what you like and try a bit of everything. Tomorrow we'll have something else." But Jemma will barely tolerate the smell of certain foods, refuses to even have them on her plate, and I don't want to turn this into a battle. Annie is more receptive, but essentially doesn't care and would be just as happy eating something that took 2 seconds to whip up. It all just feel so POINTLESS and I am tempted to open a can of cream of mushroom soup and pour it over some ground beef and call it a casserole and be done with it.

2. We've started expecting the girls, especially Annie, to perform certain household chores on a daily or weekly basis. For example, she now puts away her clean laundry, makes her bed every morning, and is expected to help set and clear the table at dinnertime. Jason and I have been talking about giving her an allowance for this, mostly because we want to start teaching her how to manage money. I got one when I was little, and I was expected to set aside a percentage to give away, a percentage to put in a savings account, and then I could spend the rest on whatever I liked.

I like this idea, but I also like the idea of kids being asked to do chores simply because they are part of the family. I want them to know what it is to contribute for the sake of helping out and not just focus on being paid for the things they do. So, what do you think? Allowance tied to chores to teach money management, or chores for the sake of contributing to the family? I like BOTH ideas.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Family Photos











We had our family photos taken on Friday. Though the picture above was taken last weekend by Jason's mom, on Friday we met for our annual hour with the photographer who has been taking pictures of us since Jemma was a baby. She's a lovely woman - a mom, our neighbor, and a really talented, kind, understanding photographer who has always done a fantastic job. But it was tedious. It was a train wreck, really, because I made the appointment for 5:30 (when the light would be best, apparently), and because I made the appointment weeks ago, before Annie started school, I didn't anticipate that Annie would attend the photo shoot with the coping skills of a two-year-old.

So it will be a miracle if any picture of all four of us ends up looking decent enough to make the Christmas card, though if none of them are worthy, we could always use the one above, which I like well enough, or the one below, which Jemma drew on Thursday and which I think is pretty adorable.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Someday (Annie is Six)

Dear Annie,

On Saturday, for our birthday, I took you in the afternoon to get your first pedicure. You picked out your polish color (pink) and climbed up into the chair next to me. I knew you would love it, and you did: the vibrating massage chair that tickled your back; the warm, bubbly water; the orange pop the receptionist brought you; the fashion magazines; the teeny-tiny flower they painted on your big toe. We decided it would be our birthday tradition.

You are big enough to love grown-up things like pedicures, yet you are so small in the massage chair that you need a pillow to prop you up. And this is how six is for you, so far. In-between. First grade is wiping you out, though I never hear you say anything negative about it. When I ask you what the best part of your day was, you usually say "Writing." You love eating at a table with your friends, playing at recess, hearing new stories from a new teacher. When you come home, though, you are just plain out of everything: coping skills, energy, patience, rational thought. One minute, you are channelling a sassy teenager - "I don't want that! I want PIZZA!" - and the next you are as limp and wordless as a toddler, melting down and clinging to the front of my body when I try to jump-start the bedtime routine. You are six, going on sixteen. You are six, going on sixteen months.

On a related note, you have occasionally been going to bed during the six o'clock hour lately in an attempt to shore you up for the next, long day. We choose your clothes for tomorrow, arrange your stuffed animals just so, and I try to build in some extra time for talking, reading, and snuggling because there are so few minutes in the rest of the day for those things now. You have questions - about the next day, about the weekend, about places on your new globe, about the tomato sauce you tried at the CSA pick-up this week - and I want to talk to you about them. At your first night of catechism on Monday, the deacon talked to all of you about God. "God loves you even more than your mom and dad love you," he said, and you turned to me, eyes narrowed suspiciously: "Is that TRUE?"

"What do you think?" I asked. It is usually what I say when you ask those kinds of questions. You looked hard at me for a minute, then turned back to listen more, to put your head down on my lap and let me scratch your back, again simultaneously six and sixteen and sixteen months.

Tonight when I tucked you in we talked more about love because of a conversation I had with Jemma while you were at school. She's been watching the recent post-school meltdowns and dramatics but not saying much about it, so I wasn't sure how much she was processing. While she and I were having lunch today, she said something adorably ridiculous ("Daddy's underwear isn't what makes him beautiful.")

"Jemma," I said, "I love you so much. I'm so lucky to be your mommy."

"You love me all the time," she said.

"Of course I do," I said.

Then she said, "But not Annie. You don't love Annie all the time," and my heart broke a little as I tried to figure out how to explain it. We talked about how I might not like the choices you were making or the words you were using, but that I loved you (both of you) every single day since before you were born, no matter what, because I am your mommy.

So tonight I talked with you about that. I wanted to be sure you were clear about just how much I love you, both while you're looking like the happiest girl in the world as you blow the candles out on a cake surrounded by family and birthday gifts, and while you're yelling your frustrations from behind your bedroom door. We decided to be kinder to each other tomorrow, and I hope we can, because I think we have a long, winding road ahead of us in this department.

Right now: you still love your dolls. You still hold my hand sometimes when we walk to school, and you always rush to give me a last "kiss-and-hug!" just before you follow your class line into the building. You still have to stand on a stool to spit your toothpaste into the sink and sit in a booster seat in the car. But you do your hair by yourself every morning. You want to make tomato sauce for dinner. You can read most of the birthday cards people gave to you. Your world is widening, but not too much.

On your birthday, after the presents and the cake and the pedicures, I tucked you in and I read you the book that stopped me in my tracks at the bookstore weeks ago. When I brought it home and Daddy read it, he couldn't believe that I thought I was going to be able to read it to you without crying. I did, though.

Someday, by Alison McGhee and Peter H. Reynolds

One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one.

One day the first snowflakes fell, and I held you up and watched them melt on your baby skin.

One day we crossed the street and you held my hand tight.

Then, you were my baby, and now you are my child.

Sometimes, when you sleep, I watch you dream, and I dream too . . .

That someday you will dive into the cool, clear water of a lake.

Someday you will walk into a deep wood.

Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine.

Someday you will run so fast and so far your heart will feel like fire.

Someday you will swing high - so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.

Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.

Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.

Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you.

Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small.

Someday you will feel a small weight against your strong back.

Someday I will watch you brushing your child's hair.

Someday, a long time from now, your own hair will glow silver in the sun.

And when that day comes, love, you will remember me.


For now, I am amazed that more than six years have passed since the Saturday afternoon when I first saw your tiny, perfect face. Six years ago just now, you were swaddled up in a white cradle at the end of our bed in another house entirely. You wore a pink knit cap on your head. It was your first night home from the hospital, and I barely knew who you were. But I was waiting to see what you needed from me next, wanting to give it to you, loving you no matter what. That hasn't changed.

Love,
Mommy


Hot Dog Party Photos








Stuck

I'm having a little trouble finding a new routine in our new normal. This happens to me every fall. I love fall and think of it - even more than January first - as a perfect time to introduce new routines and order and intention into my life. But there's something about the sudden Blam! of everything kid-related starting at once (school, dance, catechism, Sunday School) combined with the sudden lack of a triathlon-related workout schedule that's left me pretty aimless this week.

I want to sit down and write a birthday letter to Annie. I want to write more about how doing the triathlon made me feel instead of just describing the experience. I want to write about introducing chores and an allowance to a six-year-old. I want to write about my first foray into formal religious education with my daughter in a church I didn't grow up in. I want to make time to write more of the things I want to write - queries, articles, poems - instead of messing around with things I don't.

This morning, though, I unloaded the dishwasher and re-organized the accessory bin. I tried (and failed) to track down a pair of ballet shoes that will fit Annie for her class this afternoon. I copied a recipe from a cookbook that's due back at the library. I will shower, bring Jemma to dance, buy Annie new ballet shoes, put the laundry away, maybe go to yoga. And maybe later tonight, after the sun has set far too early for my taste, I will actually write something.

From Devotion by Dani Shapiro:

"Writers often say that the hardest part of writing isn't the writing itself: it's the sitting down to write. The same is true of yoga, meditation, and prayer. The sitting down, the making space. The doing. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Unroll the mat. Sit cross-legged on the floor. Just do it. Close your eyes and express a silent need, a wish, a moment of gratitude. What's so hard about that? Except - it is hard. The usual distractions - the clutter and piles of life - are suddenly, unusually enticing. The worst of it, I've come to realize, is that the thing that stops me - the shadow that casts a cold darkness across the best of my intentions - isn't the puppy, the e-mail, the UPS truck, the school conference, the phone, the laundry, the to-do lists. It's me that stops me. Things get stuck, the osteopath once said with a shrug. He gestured to the area where the neck meets the head. The place where the body ends and the mind begins. Things get stuck. It sounded so simple when he said it. It's me, and the things that are stuck. Standing in my way."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

33

At 7:13 a.m. on the morning of my thirty-third birthday, I stand knee-deep in water and look out at the orange sunrise over the black lake with a hundred other pink-capped women aged 30-34. Connie stands next to me. We wear black wetsuits and we shiver with cold and nervousness. We pull our goggles down over our eyes, push them hard against our faces to seal. Connie says, "Don't try to talk me into doing another one of these" and I say, "Never again." Then it is 7:14 a.m. and the whistle blows and we are off.

The water is cold and choppy and it is crowded with pink caps. I try to put my face in the water and swim the way I have practiced but I am too worried that I will swim straight into someone, so I make do with a modified crawl, my head sticking up out of the water more than not. A little behind and to my right, someone starts crying out, though I don't hear exactly what they say. I hear someone go to her and yell, "We need a boat over here!" and just the thought of the panic they are in makes me a little queasy.

I press on, but every time I turn my head to the side to breathe, I get a wave in the face, so I do a little breastroke, a little freestyle, a little treading water to see where I am going. The buoy seems very, very far away, and it doesn't feel like I am making much progress. I have lost Connie completely. I reach the buoy, head back towards shore, and am able to get enough space to put my head down and swim the way I want to swim - strong, smooth - more of the way back in. I am hating every second of the swimming, but I am almost done. When my feet touch the slimy cement of the boat launch and I walk out of the water, I rip my pink cap off and smile. I pull my wetsuit down to my waist and run gingerly (bare feet!) on the cobbled path. The clock says 25:something when I run past and go to my transition area.

Connie is just there, too. Wetsuit off. Helmet, bike gloves, long-sleeved wicking shirt, shoes, camelback on. Shot Blocks in pocket. Ankle strap secured. And I'm lifting my bike off the rack and running it toward the Bike Out chute, getting on, and pedaling with Connie a few yards in front of me. We are Moms on Mountain Bikes. We take turns leading each other up and down the hills, talking when we're close enough, getting passed by plenty of people with sweeter, faster bikes. I am pedaling on Fulton into the wind when Jason passes me. "Hi, babe!" he says, and then he's a blur of gray and red and white speeding down the hill. I turn around and the wind is at my back for the horrible hill on the return and the hill is not as bad as it has been before. I eat my Shot Blocks and drink all my water and before I know it, I am cresting the intersection of Cascade and Robinson, turning left onto my very favorite part of the ride, a smooth section completely covered with trees that leads to a curving downhill. I am going fast and I have a huge smile on my face because the hardest part is over.

I coast toward the transition and I hear people cheer and yell my name and someone is telling me to Slow Down and then I'm off my bike and running it back to my rack. Connie gets there a few seconds later, and because we're not fancy, we don't have fancy clip shoes to change, so we just ditch our bikes and helmets, then start to run. My legs feel a little heavy, but we're talking and laughing anyway. Sarah is waiting for us in front of the library, yelling "Woooot! Woooot!" and she jumps in to run with us, full of stories and positivity. We are talking and laughing and telling her how much the swim sucked. Other people ask if we're The Fun Group and we say yes.

More people, more cheering, and the run feels great as we go around the lake. We reach the hill before the rock and I think This is the last hard part! On the downhill we see an old friend, then Sarah drops away and we turn the corner towards the finish. I see Jason, just finished, watching for me and I blow him a kiss. I say, "I can't believe we just did this," and Connie says, "Neither can I" and we cross the mat side by side, two hours and eleven minutes after we started.

I did a triathlon on my thirty-third birthday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things They Say

Me, after Annie's been tired and coughing a little the last few days: "How do you feel this morning, Annie?"

Annie: "I feel like braids today! Four, please."

*****

Jemma: "Mom, Daddy said I could have a frozen go-gurt. Can you get me one?"

Me: "I'll get you one in a minute, but while you're waiting, could you pick up these crayons you used earlier?"

Jemma: "No."

Me: "Oh, well, if you make a mess, you have to pick it up."

Jemma: "No, I make a mess and YOU pick it up!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Limits, and the Pushing Of

Tonight's swim workout (the last one):

300 warm-up

12 minute timed swim at race pace

6 x 100 fast

2 x 75 drill cool-down

Even as I was slicing back and forth in my lane, it was hard for me to believe that I really could
swim this far only ten weeks after those first, few horrible swims. I actually feel comfortable in the water instead of gaspy and panicky. I actually have a rhythm, sometimes, and feel soothed by the underwater quiet. When I finish, I feel tired but strong, not shaky and weak like I did at the beginning of July.

The weather forecast for Saturday doesn't look great: nighttime low of 54 degrees, and a 60% chance of thunderstorms. Thunder and lightening would mean cancellation, and I am going to be fairly devastated if I don't get to do this thing I've been working towards for most of the summer. I'll be disappointed, for sure. I'll probably flail around, trying to find another, similar-distance event in the very near future just so I can check this New Year's Resolution off for 2010.

But no matter the weather at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, what doesn't change is this: I set a goal, I worked toward it, and along the way I got to spend some bonus time with my best friend, meet a fun new group of people, and stretch and strengthen my body in new ways. I tried something new. I learned that I love the feel of speeding down a hill on a bike, of pushing myself along the road in a new way. I learned that I can swim, and that I can train my body to do something hard simply by practicing it over and over and over. I showed my daughters what it looks like when health and fitness are priorities, and that a mommy is often sweaty and smells bad but is also strong and determined.

I probably swam a mile total tonight, a distance that would have been completely impossible for me ten short weeks ago. I wonder what else I can do.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day of School



















This morning was the beginning of our new normal around here: Annie at school all day, every day; Jemma at preschool two mornings a week. Back from our weekend up north, I scrambled yesterday afternoon and evening to pack Annie's lunch, get today's clothes laid out, post Annie's new morning routine, and gather all the paperwork and cameras we would need for today so that this morning could go smoothly. We took pictures on the front stoop, like we have every year since Annie was headed off to preschool the week she turned three. Things have changed a little:



















She picks out her own clothes now, does her own hair, paints her own toenails, reads the checklist to make sure she has everything in her backpack before she heads out the door. She has friends with whom to walk to school (moms still watching from nearby):











She had a great, long day of first grade. Around 11:15, the time I had to leave the house last year to start walking to pick her up, I felt fidgety and a little sad. It felt so strange not to be getting ready to go get her. It felt odd to eat lunch without her, knowing she was eating at a long cafeteria table with her friends. But she went off with a confident smile and a note in her lunchbox, and she came home telling me her new teacher is "even nicer" than her much-loved kindergarten teacher. She came home exhausted, too, and asked to lie down and rest for half an hour. When I went to check on her, she had fallen asleep the wrong way on her bed, on top of the covers, and was sleeping the open-mouthed sleep of exhaustion that can apparently be brought on by full days of school that last until 3:30. I let her sleep for an hour, then woke her up, and she whimpered her way through dinner, making me wonder if she's getting sick or if the transition to first grade is going to wipe her out even more than I'd anticipated.

Then there was Jemma. She's seemed unsure and less-than-completely-enthusiastic about preschool when people have mentioned it to her in the last few weeks, and she wasn't that happy about having her picture taken on the front steps this morning, either. So I wasn't sure what she'd do when we walked up the steps of the school and went to find her classroom. But she was immediately taken with the fact that she's in Annie's old classroom and made herself right at home in the kitchen while I met briefly with her teachers.



















I didn't leave her there for actual school today - that will happen on Thursday - but she did stay long enough to have to use the bathroom (a just-her-size toilet) and wash her hands. While she was sudsing up at the teeny little sink, she said, "This is just my size! What a lucky classroom!" and I hope she'll do OK on Thursday when I kiss her good-bye.

And just like that, it's really fall.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Just in Time For First Grade . . .



















Annie learned to tie her shoes!





Thursday, September 2, 2010

Click

"Well the sun's not so hot in the sky today
and you know I can feel summertime slipping away . . ."
-James Taylor, "September Grass"

I remember the very first day of March feeling very "March-y" this year: bright sunshine melting the icicles, warm wind, spring smells. Six months later, September 1 felt very "September-y," too: dark, low clouds; drizzly rain; requisite geese flying overhead when I sat on the couch late in the evening. I lit the cinnamon cider candle, had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season, too. I love when the weather corresponds neatly to the calendar (winter, take note).

Last night, our triathlon training group did a simulation of the actual event. We couldn't do it on the course we'll be using, mostly because it's tough to swim in Reed's Lake in the evenings (too many boats) and not idea to ride on Fulton (too busy). So we gathered at a little lake out in Caledonia somewhere and set up our "transition areas" (read: old towel with running shoes, a Camelback, and a packet of Gu next to my mountain bike from 1998) on the front lawn of a generous woman who let us all in to use her bathroom when we had to pee from nervousness.

Connie, Katie, Jason and I crammed ourselves into the wetsuits we'll be renting and followed the group into the lake. I swam half a mile no problem and hope, hope, hope it goes as smoothly on the day of the race. (Peeling myself out of the wetsuit, though, did not go as smoothly. Any tips, swimmers?) Then we headed to the lawn, slammed some Gatorade and Gu, and biked 18 miles through cornfields and to the town of Middleville and back. Off the bikes, we ran just over four miles. It was dark by the time we finished up, fireflies lighting our way on the gravel roads, and we were just plain glad to be DONE. It was all of the guts, none of the glory, but I do feel as prepared as possible for next Saturday. Now, crossing my fingers for good weather.

Today I took the girls to Marie Catrib's for lunch just because it's one of the last times I'll be able to take them both out like this for a long while. We waited and waited for a table, the girls and I doing hand-clapping games and singing the little songs that go with to pass the time, Marie coming around with plates of peaches and cookies to appease our hunger. We ate our meals (PB&J, macaroni and cheese, and the cranberry chicken sandwich on challah, all shared around the table) and then of course we finished with pudding, and my desire to have a large vat of it as part of our post-triathlon celebration was confirmed.

Later, we ventured to Annie's school to meet her new teacher and check out her classroom. Her locker is HUGE - she could fit inside it entirely - and she went about choosing a spot to sit and dutifully placing her binders and composition notebooks (hee!) and pencil box inside an actual desk. (A desk! With a nametag! They did not have desks in kindergarten. This is The Real Deal.) She loved her teacher. She loved seeing her friends. She is so eager to return on Tuesday and get started on first grade. She is counting the days.

I took a few minutes today to scroll through the hundreds of photos we took this summer as we prepare to bid it farewell, and I can't believe how spectacular it was. The weather was awesome, the girls were at an age where they can do most everything with us but the wonder hasn't yet worn off, and we truly made the most of these three months. Looking at the photos, I felt so incredibly blessed and grateful for all the moments: baseball games, sparklers, memorable meals, Lake Michigan, the pool, lemonade stands, camping, fireworks, biking, ice cream . . .

. . . and as much as I love fall, a tiny part of me doesn't want to see it end. I just finished the book Devotion by Dani Shapiro. I folded down the page where she wrote this:

Autumn has always been my favorite season, and even more so since we've moved to a part of the country known for its foliage. As we drove past lakes framed with the fiery mix of color, I had a familiar desire to freeze the moment - to stop time. Stay this way, I silently asked. I wasn't just asking the leaves to hold on to the trees. I was asking Jacob to stay a little boy, for Michael to remain vital and healthy, for myself to stay a while longer in this chapter of my life.

"Mommy?" Jacob piped up from the back seat. "I'm hungry. Is there anything to eat or drink?"

Even this - even my son calling me Mommy - felt bittersweet. When would I be demoted to just plain Mom?

I reached into the back seat and handed Jacob a bag of chips and a milk box. I was longing for the moment I was in, even as I was in it. I was mourning it, as if we were already a yellowed photograph in an album: my family together on a country drive, young, healthy, happy, whole.

I knew better, of course. I knew that trying to capture time - to hold on to anything at all - was not only useless, but a terrible waste. Time was all we had.

I am trying so hard not to do this - not to long for the moment I am in, even as I am in it. I am trying, instead, to savor the moments, to celebrate them, to capture them in words and photos, to plan for more of them the next day, and the next.

There was a moment on Tuesday when the girls and I were at the beach and I was in the middle of them, holding both their hands as we jumped the crashing waves and the sunshine glinted off the water. The girls were squealing and joyous, the water swirled around my knees, and I felt myself smile - not at them, but just at life, at the moment I'd been given. I said, "I wish I had the camera out here with me. We'll have to take a picture with our brain and remember how fun this is." And Jemma let go of my hand for a second, put her fingers up around her eyes, and said, "Click!"

I'm going to send my Annie off to first grade on Tuesday. I'm going to bid this fabulous summer farewell and maybe let myself mourn the passing of time for just one minute. Then I'm going to make a new list on the blackboard by the back door - a Fall List - and plan for more spectacular moments in the days and weeks to come. I'm going to do a triathlon. I'm going to celebrate a birthday with my big, little girl. Click. Click. Click.