(from A&E Intervention)

I felt like I needed an Intervention often during the last oh, I'll say two years. Around the same time my "yay, you have been here for two years and now qualify to participate in our 401K" letter came in the mail, (YES, TWO YEARS?!?!), I determined that it had been enough and I was ready for change, but terrified of it. Lord knows I have endured enough change the past two years, why would a little more now be so scary, right? 

The pain of my everyday work life had become too much. It had become more terrifying than the change I dreaded. It was soul sucking and awful and each day I wondered what new mysterious new depth of suckdom we could reach. So many times I felt "this the bottom, it gets better from here." It didn't. I repeated often in my head, "the devil you know..." I really stuck it out, even when promises were reneged and life threw me a handful of half squeezed moldy lemons. I committed myself, held my head up, even when I wanted to toss my badge towards the door and never look back. "Here's your stinking mouse!" I kept going. I crossed every "t", I followed through on every single request, and I dutifully maintained my image of happy social worker, even when I was fuming and exasperated and feeling huffy. I don't know how I did this because at home, I was a ticking time bomb. I couldn't be truly present for my kids because the compartment I was keeping work BS in was overflowing. I couldn't be the best wife because at night when my helpful spouse tried to talk things through, I wanted to talk about anything and everything but not this, no, please anything but this. It went from hard to harder recently, when all my hope for positive changes went to heck. It happened while I was out with Steve's knee surgery and Caroline's lapse between camp and school. I literally came back to work and my heart was wrung out and hung to dry. All hope that we were now at the bottom of the neverending pit lost.

(Edited to add this e card from Amy, thanks!)

Change is painful. I am not entirely sure what the new routine might look like. I worry about the kids coping with another transition. I worry that it won't be what I want it to be. I worry that the devil I know is really better than the devil I don't. I worried so much making the decision to take the leap toward something that might be better, that I couldn't sleep. Then I worried so much that I was tired all the time. My worry killed my appetite and then suddenly revved it into full force with massive carb loading. My worry ate up all my downtime and I couldn't even shake it when I ran. People, I worried. A lot.
I questioned everything. I toyed with leaving my niche of my profession for something completely new. I started writing a business plan I was pretty jived about. It was the only positive professional thing in my life since May. I even considered just walking away without a plan, staying home until I figured it out. I really considered that actually, because I had no other options and was absoluely miserable. I knew there would be many questions from many people that I would have to explain away and I'm just not the kind of person who can say, "it wasn't working out," even though that is the truth. There are still thousands of people in this country who looking for work, ANY work, something to keep them from completely draining their bank accounts or retirement funds. I thought of the kids too. I would have to pull Connor from most of his preschool time. I would have to cancel Caroline's afterschool program. Her afterschool program is her favorite part of her entire day. I'd have to reconsider hockey this fall, dance, cute shoes, buying ahead when things are on sale at the market. I'd have to stretch every dime further than I am now. I've done all of that once when we first moved home and while I loved those 8 months with the kids, I know it set us back financially.

Today I tweeted that I am looking for new pillows, for an amazing new bed arriving in just a couple weeks. Pillows, by the way, are way more expensive than I thought they were. I called Steve to warn him that I was not going to be getting two pillows for the twenty bucks he was expecting. It's one of the things in our marriage I have learned: warn him because he has a ridiculous sense of monetary worth. "Pants for $60???? What are they made of? gold???" I knew I had to warn him that I was budgeting about $35 a pillow, which allows him to go hog wild online to see that indeed, nicer pillows do cost more than 2 for $20. That new bed, it wouldn't happen if I wasn't working. Me feeling entitled to new plush pillows for the new bed, that doesn't happen either if I'm not working. I know we could swing it, we could, but we would both be unable to justify. Do we NEED new pillows? No, we don't, but it will make it so much better to sleep in our new bed with new fluffy amazing pillows and I won't feel an ounce of guilt because my job paid for those pillows. It would kind of let the air out of my yay balloon if the pillows sucked that first night's sleep. I had wanted my next job to be part time, but it isn't. I've come to realize that my little niche of social work allows for a pretty flexible lifestyle. There is no train to catch, no office to check in at, just one set meeting, and all the time in the world to plan your day yourself. It's a pretty lucky thing to stumble into.

Mostly, I didn't feel comfortable telling Caroline that "Mommy didn't really care for work, so she quit." For me, it is of the utmost importance to show my daughter that she can truly do, be, live anyway she wants. If her life's ambition is to be Mom, then be Mom and ROCK that motherhood title. If she wants to be a face painter and balloon maker, I will buy stock in balloons and empower her to be an amazing successful entreprenuer. If she wants to have a career AND be a Mom, well, I hope I am showing her that THAT is possible too. Saying, I didn't like it, so I left, teaches her that when life gets hard, you can walk away. That is not the lesson I want her to get here. When I sit down to explain that crazy first couple weeks of my transition to her, I want her to know that I made a decision to hopefully make things better for all of us. I want her to know that I do this for a reason, not just for myself. I want her to know that the time I spend away from them is as hard on me as it is on them, but a family works together and weathers whatever is thrown at them. I want her to know that I make these choices to better her life. I want to show her that it wasn't working, but that I found a better way. I want her to know that if she values it, it is important, and worth doing. I want her to know I never gave up hope and I never will.

I start October 9th.

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a how to for the shoulder season and beyond

I took on the arduous awful task of switching the kids clothes over from "hot as hades" to "pleasantly crisp." I always do it too soon and usually end up with an overflowing amount of clothes to cover the shoulder season that make absolutely no sense and the drawers and the closet and the WOE!! It's New England after all, so the weather changes in an instant. Send them in long pants, it is sure to be hot and humid by the time you pick them up. Forget to send a coat and get treated to a whinefest on the ride home about how cold they were.

This is never really perceived as a big deal to Steve because he is always warm and would just assume to send them in shorts and t-shirts year round. See, the task of buying the clothes is mine too, but he oftentimes feels that they don't really NEED this stuff. I might not need a new pair of yoga pants, but Connor needs new pants each season. That is fact. If only we lived in North Carolina, perhaps year rund ts and shorts could be a reality. We live in Massachusetts where we are incredibly lucky to HAVE a fall season full of color and crisp air and apple cider (donuts).

I check the weather each night and by morning it is different. I like to plan the kids clothes for the week in advance, it saves precious time in the morning. It also allows for less chance that I will dress us all the same. If you get a hankering for nantucket red pants and a striped shirt and THEN go to select the children's clothes, brace yourself to walk out the door before you realize you look like a family of bees headed out for the day. In fact, that is probably the number one reason I must choose in advance because this happens to me all the time, particularly with Caroline.

I have one of those fabric five shelf sweater organizers that hangs from the rod in each of their closets and it helps in many ways, namely that I can typically send Caroline in to choose a shelf and thus I have given her choice and helped her make an appropriate decision at the same time. This prevents a lot of fights, except the weather has been so unpredicatble that our laundry last week looked almost shizophrenic; jeans, sweaters, mesh shorts, long sleeves. I've been bringing her majesty two choices in the mornings instead of using my five day planning system because weatherwise, it just doesn't work in September.

There is a lot to choose from this season. Five years in people and I think I am finally starting to get a handle on how to shop for a new seasonal wardrobe for growing children... while saving as much money as humanly possible. It doesn't hurt that both grandparents contributed some pretty amazing finds of their own. Kiki found some fantastic Bear Paw boots and the cutest skinny jeans ever. Nana sent her home from her visit earlier this month with the prettiest fall skirts that I cannot wait to send her to school in with TIGHTS.

I still spend a good amount of time as the new season approaches scouring my favorite consignment haunts searching for quality basics like khakis, cords, skirts, denim. I search both their current size and a size up because with second hand clothing comes a second hand laundry history. I found a great Gap white button down shirt for Connor marked to half price for $3.00. For Caroline, I located an amazing Splendid three-quarter sleeve magenta and grey striped dress to wear with leggings for under $10.00.

I have a system now, one that makes Steve roll his eyes and say "Oh, Boy." At the end of each season, I review EVERYTHING and make three piles; "Keep for next year," "Storage," and "Donate." Careful review before storing limits what I spend and buy the next season and yes, it's more work, but why buy a surplus of size 5 jeans just because you put them in the attic and have no idea where they are?

Review what will still work from last year, revise your wardrobe plans to maximize what you already have. I review what will and won't work, forcing her to try things on when necessary. Unfortunately, asking her to try anything on is akin to requesting her to donate a kidney, so I put anything that I think MIGHT work into the keep pile and play a rousing game of wardrobe roulette on those mornings. I can already see how it will play out because she has already mentally placed several items in the "can never go to other people we know who are smaller" pile. Once I take a look at what each kid has, I take stock of what they absolutely need and what I think would be cute or fun to add. I literally write it down on a card and stick it in my wallet and I search for it. I took Caroline to the outlets and we checked off denim skirt, denim jacket, and button down (peter pan) collar white shirt (which ended up being a bit of a splurge.) We found and conquered "sporty comfy" pants and button down shirts for Connor. I learned last year that the best way to work a boy's wardrobe is to maximize the use of t-shirt year round; solo in summer and over long sleeves in the cooler months. He will literally wear some of his shirts for a full year this year and I am stupidly excited about it.

I spent a little more this year than I typically do because she is getting older now and has opinions and he is getting older and ruining less clothing. I splurged on some really cute things that Caroline loved because I know she will want to wear them and that is most of the battle isn't it? I'll post of photo of her wearing my two favorite splurges; a ridiculous heather grey DKNY swish (auntie!!!) and her off the runway long buttonless cardi with ribbon sash from Crewcuts. Girl knows she looks sweet, smiling at herself in the mirror, tossing her curls back. Don't you wish you could look in the mirrow and blow yourself a kiss because you think you are the hottest little thing?

This is also the year I update myself because enough already. It cannot be nearly Thanksgiving again before I realize I didn't find one cute thing for myself this fall. Most often when I open my wallet, it is for them, while I still wear shoes from ten years ago. This is the year I hop on the leggings train and ride it into the sunset, discreetly covering up with long sweaters and tunics of course.

my tiny dancer

With so many exciting activities over the summer, it was difficult to discuss with Caroline that she could choose just dance OR gymnastics this fall. Clearly in July it was ALL gymnastics with the Olympics. Aly being from her home state almost sealed the deal. I called some gyms because I was imagining they were being peppered with calls from parents wanting to sign their little ones up and classes were sure to be filling. They weren't taking registration yet, but they reported an influx of calls and were anticipating record number of enrollments. One was even adding classes for the littlest ones. In essence, 2012 is a great year to be a gym. I still had difficulty getting a commitment from Caroline. She wanted me to decide for her and I refused to do that. I explained that this was her choice because she was the one who would need to go each week, listen, learn and then perform. I reassured her I would support whichever decision she made and that if it was not working out and she was not enjoying it, she should just talk to me about it. Rest assured, this will in no way affect her learn to hockey which she is firmly on board with. You will still see cute photos of her braids under a hockey helmet later this fall and winter.

As time ticked away and the days started to get shorter, I started reviewing the class schedules for both options and it looked for a bit that dance was going to be off the table because we needed a class that met after school mid week. We are still in denial that our weekends will soon be filled full tilt with the kids sports and extracurriculars. Steve is still in denial that he only has a couple more seasons of unintterupted BC Football. I got an email from a studio I had contacted in the spring notifying me of an Open House during the last week in August who also just happened to have what they were touting as a "Full Day K class" in the middle of the week after school. We hit the farmer's market and walked down the street to check it out.

It reminded me of my own dance studio. It was simple, with wooden floors, a small waiting area. There were no competition trophies or plaques on the walls. This was a simple studio where the goal was to learn and have fun. There was a very simple but strict dress code. The owner and teacher has owned the studio for thirty years and is nothing like that terrible Abby Lee Miller from Dance Moms. (Isn't that show terrifying!?) Girls were trying on dance shoes in the first studio and Caroline leaned away from me to peek in on them. So we tried on ballet shoes; she did some spins and admired her beautiful self in the mirror. We tried on tap shoes; she lit up like a fourth of july bonfire, "high up heels, Mommy!" and she refused to take them off. I asked her if she had made her decision and she replied, "yes! yes! yes! I want these shoes."

I have to admit, I've been fighting this for awhile. I have vivid clear memories of my mother asking me if I wanted to dance when I was about four years old. (Four? mom?) She asked me what kind of dance and I knew it had to be ballet. She asked us to fetch her the phone book (yes, the phone book!) and she began doing research for a local school the way they did it in the 80's. I recall leaping on the couches in our family room, filled with such excitement because I was going to be a ballerina. She observed classes and dismissed schools that were too flexible, with little structure. She sliced her way through her phone book list until she found my dance school, the one I would attend until I was sixteen. I can still remember the first class, just a handful of us, learning how to hold our hands like ballerinas, how to hold a beach ball with our arms for what would someday become a port de bra. I loved it, I lived it, I breathed it in great big Cecchetti Method gulps. I never lost an audition, save for one bad experience at Boston Ballet (of all places) where I was so utterly confused that I couldn't tell if by calling your number you were in or out.  I heard my number and just walked off, stormed off actually (Don't be mad Mom). I experienced the joy of a second set of friends, I danced in so many Nutcrackers that I still can recall some of the coreography, and I even considered being a ballerina when I grew up for real, not as some childhood fanstasy.

This holiday will mark the third time we will take Caroline to the Nutcracker. Last year we got crowns with my cousin (and fellow dancer) Kristen to wear each year because why wouldn't you want to be the Sugar Plum Fairy one night every year. I am also trying to teach her young that an event which a crown is considered an appropriate accessory needs to be taken advantage of. Last year, on our way home, I explained that all the children she had seen were learning ballet, that her mommy had been one of those children a long time ago, that she had even been Clara. It's hard. It's hard to not press your own positive experiences on your kid. I avoided it for so long for fear that I would just be signing her up to be me, but I also started to see that I was holding her back from deciding for herself if she wanted to try it.

We bought the shoes, we found a dance wear shop to buy a black leotard and pink tights. I pulled her hair back into a bun and boy, did she remind me of a little girl I used to look at in the mirror.

We may not have a ballerina, but we might have a tapper. This video was shot for Nana on Wednesday after her class.

FDK - first day of k, video proof of the bus ride

For my husband, who was confused that I referenced a video I did not post, I give you "the kids sitting so pleasantville quietly at the table." Could you even imagine choosing to sit like Caroline? Hang in there for the ending.

For all posterity. First day of Kindergarten; from quiet confidence to tears and fears. Was I telling our neighbor she would be fine to reassure myself? Yes. I most certainly was.

the invisible line

It echoed over all our televisions in July. That "oh, oh, oh," of Phillip Phillips "Home." It was catchy, it got your heart beating faster watching Ali's smug "I nailed that tumbling pass" grin. Steve loves this song. The kids hum along. You almost can't help it.

I heard it on the way home last week from a group I volunteer with in town for newcomers. It made me think of Caroline and school and this little town and how I never thought we would be here and yet, here we are. Home. I've written before about how our goal when we were living in Connecticut (a long time ago now) when we realized it was not going to stick, was to be back to Massachusetts in time for school. At times it seemed reasonable, at others impossible, and then it just happened so fast and so suddenly. BOOM.

We have lived here in this home for almost two years and it feels equal parts, "didn't we just get here?" and "doesn't it seem like we've been here forever?" We've put our stamp on it now, freed it of its pale pink walls and wallpaper. We know the sounds of our home too; the way the water comes on in spurts for the washing machine and the way you can hear through the walls of the master bath directly into the kitchen. I haven't learned every squeaky step yet, but in time Caroline and Connor will to assist them in creaking up the steps, home past curfew.

There seems to be something about having one of our short people starting at the public school down the street makes it feel a little more like home now. We feel part of town in a way we didn't necessarily feel before. Still, there is just something about that song. Beyond the obvious I love you and you love me and we can take on the world thing, it seems pretty appropriate for today; the first day of Kindergarten. It goes a another unexpected way too; kid to parent, parent to kid. I'll hold onto you and you hold onto me and we will ride this thing wherever it takes us and you will never be alone.

Here are the lyrics... minus the oh, oh, oh'ing referenced up top.
"Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause i’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause i’m going to make this place your home"

This morning, my baby strapped on her backpack, put on her biggest smile and posed for this photo.

There were a few tears when the bus rounded the corner, but I maintained my composure (somehow) and led her by the hand across the street, avoided the rookie mistake of the hoisted hug, where my big kid stepped up and onto the bus and into the first seat beside her fellow first time rider Tyler. The sobs stopped, but her scared little face reached around the corner to get one more look at us before the doors closed and she rode away to her first day in kindergarten. I made it through Connor's drop off, made the u-turn, blew kisses out my window and tried to focus on the day ahead. My eyes welled up as I glanced at the clock, knowing she had arrived and her day had begun and she was there stepping across some invisible line into a new phase of life.

How did it go? This is seriously all I got from her. Her teacher was there to greet her. Our neighbor (the school nurse) was there to take a photo of her getting off the bus. She went to gym and danced around. She ate all the skin off her peach. She skinned her knee on the playground. She made friends, but could not tell me anything about it. She wants to go back tomorrow.

This morning before the bus came, I quickly went through the story "The Kissing Hand" and I kissed her hand and placed it against her cheek and reminded her she carried a piece of my heart in her own body and my kiss would be there in her palm all day to remind her that I love her. They actually read the book at storytime today. She then traced her own hand, placed a heart sticker in the center and brought it home just to make me cry, right? Oh, my heart.

Tonight at bedtime I brushed the curls from her brow, "I am so proud of you, Caroline." "I'm so proud of you too, Mommy." Gulp. God, she's good.

limit setting

I have difficult conversations with caregivers in my professional life about increasing responsibilities and roles. I always tell them, "knowing what you are not capable of doing, is just as important as knowing what you can do." I never seem to be able to take my own advice.

Last time I wrote here, I detailed how we need to get out, out, out or we risk insanity. We got out, out, out on Saturday at the second BC football game, but today, not so much. The biggest item on our agenda was grocery shopping and prepping for the Pats game. Ah yes, football season. Love the game, hate the time committment. I absolutely could not fathom managing these two on my own outside the house after yesterday, so we made nachos, we did watercolors, sorted buttons, strung beads. I use we liberally. I had hoped to deter them from further endangering their beautiful faces with all the physical playtime and get dinner prepped. Each time my hand touched a knife, someone needed more water, or a different paint brush, or more buttons. When I did finally start chopping peppers, the kids flew from their seats to get their plasticware knives out because they were apparently going to "cut peppers." Um, NO!

It was the kind of afternoon that makes you question how you got here; breaking up wrestling matches, constant requests to "stop," temper tantrums, wild screaming children racing about telling you when you ask them "who is in charge?" "me" and realizing they are sort of right.

We pushed through dinner and I took the kids on a walk around the neighborhood. The volume did not go down and I am sure the neighbors appreciated the camp song serenade loudly delivered by both kids. I ended up scooping the slower of the two onto my back and together we discovered that chestnut trees have very ouchy blooms. Eruptions of giggles during a simulatenous finger prick and a serious hunt for acorns replaced exasperation.

I love to be home. I love to stand against my kitchen counter. I love to fluff the sheets in the air and leisurely take care of those hospital corners I love to be home with my family, but my family right now just cannot be at home for long periods of time without it all falling apart. During those falling apart moments I worry, because things professionally have been questionable at best and I've been worried that I might need to be at home like that more and I fret about what I would do. I knew tonight during that walk that I would just be the busy mom, never home, always on the move. Home is my limit, it's what I cannot do. Walks, trampoline parks, dollar night at the Children's Museum, football games that last all day, things that make most moms shiver in fear, yeah, they are my shining moment. We do out so well, most of the time, it's home that is my limit. It won't always be that way. I have a short video today of the kids doing watercolors at the kitchen table and there is silence, until Connor spills his entire cup of paint water on the floor. It's chaos. Out it where it is at, just not the supermarket because oh my god, it should be parental punishment to take a kid to the market hours before the first NFL game of the year.

ps. it is still hard to be a mccashew

Steve had his surgery a week ago Tuesday and we were all so relieved, some of us (ME) smug actually, that it was NOT the ACL he had been preparing for, fretting about, searching out You Tube videos to scare himself silly about the recovery, and researching stats on the mortality rate from this particular surgical procedure. He DID have two tears; medially and laterally, which the doc told me were most likely the reason it felt to him like an ACL. AMEN. A hundred pounds off my shoulders right then and there as I hoisted his nerve blocked left leg into the SUV to drive him home and pick up his meds and fix him lunch and attend to the cryo cuff. Let's also say here how particularly grateful I was that my children were nowhere in sight (thank you Kiki) because that day I barely sat down, even during his two hour post anethesia snooze. He would do the same for me, though I think comparing his knee to having a baby will need to be chalked up to delusional pain medication talk.

The week tested me and while I was thrilled to pieces to have us all under one roof together for four glorious days (three if you don't count Saturday when we attended the first football game of the season! did you honestly think he would miss it???), the kids are in the wonderful stage where they are completely incapable of leaving each other alone for a single second. I am of the mindset that we need to get out, get out, get out somehow someway to do something before oh my LORD they either maim each other or I lose my voice loudly telling them to leave the other one alone for the love of GOD. On Sunday, that meant buying them each a 30-minute ticket to a local trampoline park. Our previously shy Caroline could not wait to get out there and once she did, she raced back and forth and cartwheeled and climbed walls and who was this brave kid? It took Connor half of his alloted time to decide that jumping was actually ok and "hey mommy, ball me!" while jumping. By the time 30 minutes rolled around, we had two crying kids who did not want to leave. We promised trampoline birthday parties and made for the door. Following a challenging lunch out where thankfully I had an adult beverage to blur the chaos around me, Caroline was finally able to set up her lemonade stand on the corner. She had three customers (five if you include the neighbor boy and his friend who were playing in their yard and received hand delivered drinks). Then it started to rain... a little. Anyone who knows her, you know the PANIC that sets in the moment you even speak of the possibility of rain and here were real live drops and she wanted inside immediately. So that was the end of the lemonade stand.

We are still in the midst of change. Connor walked into his new preschool room at school yesterday like he owned the joint. "Mommy, give me my bag." He took it over to his new cubby, emptied it of lunch, blankets, and Giraffe and walked away. Just like that. All summer I've had at least a few mornings each week with tears that require a teacher handoff. My big kid barely hugged me and I could feel myself choking up because I hadn't expected that and even though as a parent that is what you hope for, it was still so unexpected and hard. Caroline had her Kindergarten evaluation right after we dropped Connor off so I had not a moment to recover from one milestone before hitting another.  She was so excited about it that I thought she might pop a dimple from smiling on the ride over. Last week she went to the Open House for the after school program she will attend and our previously stage IV clinger with new situations and people made a liar out of me telling everyone on every enrollment form how "slow to warm up" she is and how "difficult transitions can be at times." Girlfriend walked in, surveyed a room of strangers, and took off. TOOK OFF.

I drove her west right after her evaluation through driving rainstorms to spend a few days with my parents who graciously offered to help with this second week between camp and school. She doesn't know it yet, but she will get to help Kiki with her cousin Lyle on Friday. She spent the greater part of that trip making faces into the rear view mirror, styling her hair, and asking me grown up questions. She showed off her penguin name tag to my parents and took off for a special adventure with them. It's odd to have just Con at home this week. It has never been just him ever for this long and she was the first thing he asked about this morning. I had to wake him at 7:45, the kid who would not sleep. He has all but given up his nap now and that hour he used to spend up there rolling around, calling for us to rub his back at bedtime is all but vanished and he STILL sleeps in later than his sister ever did. Who would have ever guessed it? Steve and I spent the time between dinner and bedtime watching him jump onto pillows last night and soak up every ray of our attention. He did ask to call his sister and the two of them on the phone with the "I love you" and "I miss you" conversation washed all the other "don't touch your sister" "stop bossing him" stuff away.

I dropped him off the same way today in his new room. He sat down with his favorite blondie to stretch elastics on little wooden boards and laughed the biggest laugh when I strummed one like a guitar. Mommy's life right now is in a time of great transition, but these hard moments, these bittersweet moments are pushing me through. They are reminding me that change is ok, that I need to be fearless, that only I can make the day a positive one and not one where I don't even want to open my eyes. If I didn't, I'd be missing all of this.