Monday, January 30, 2017

Creating a story: A day trip to Snoqualmie.

Like I mentioned a couple of posts back, I recently read, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing My Life."  The title and the jacket summary poorly convey the message of the book.  Actually, there is a lot going on in the book, with a bunch of takeaways, so I can see how it might be problematic to convey that in a short summary.  The gist of the book, or at least the main message that I took from it, was that you are the author of your own story, and how interesting or engaging your story is is your decision.  That is a bit of a simplification, but for the premise of this post, we are going to go with it.  The author also touches on the concept of the binding nature of shared experiences.  (Something that I have realized is important in our family relationship.)

So, I read this book, and I was all fired up.  MLK weekend was coming up, and I was determined to make that Monday a day of family adventure.  I did some quick research, and decided that a day-trip to Snoqualmie Falls and the town of Snoqualmie would be perfect.  I heated up some leftovers and put them in thermoses for lunch, packed some snacks, made sure that dinner was already made for our return home later that day, and I told the children of our plans.

Cue total melt-down from one of my children.  "I don't like hiking!  I don't want to goooooo!"  *lots of loud screaming, stomping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth*

What the book doesn't discuss is how to create a family story.  The author discusses his experience as a then single person.  It is hard enough to generate the momentum to write the story of your own life, how much more difficult is it when one (or more!) of your family is kicking and screaming the whole way?  The answer?  Difficult enough to want to bag the whole thing.

So feeling like a prison warden, I corralled the kids into the van, and we set off on our adventure.  And sure enough, once we got in the car and answered the question, "how long is this drive going to be," a dozen times, the kids really enjoyed themselves.  We made a quick stop to visit an uncle of Mr. F.'s, had lunch in the back of our van at a gas station (we sure do pick scenic stops!), and then drove to the falls.  This kids loved the falls, but tragedy struck again when we saw that the trail was closed due to unsafe conditions.  (I guess that is the risk you take when you go in January.)

Cue another meltdown.  The child who disliked hiking so much was now inconsolable about the fact that he/she could not actually hike.  *lots of yelling*

Again, what they never tell you in blogs, books, movies, etc.: family vacations are never really enjoyable for the parents.  If you, as a parent, enjoy your family vacations with your kids, I don't want to hear about it.  It is much easier for me to deal with life if I believe this is an unequivocal fact that I just need to come to grips with.

We instead went on a wee urban hike to a nearby bridge upstream from the falls and found stuff to throw in.  (Twigs, rocks, small children--I kid!--etc.)  Peace restored, we continued on to the town of Snoqualmie where there is a small railway museum with a bunch of retired trains.  We met up with Mr. F.'s cousin that just happened to live there, and let the kids wear themselves out climbing about. After I had frozen long enough in the nippy wind that picked up, we popped in the back of the van for another little snack where the kids proceeded to tell me that this was the best adventure EVER(!), and we drove home.

I guess you could say that our attempt at a small entry in our family story was a success!  But, man!  That success was at a price--the price of my sanity!  Of course I will continue to look for opportunities for us to explore and have fun, but the whining that accompanies these trips can really be a killjoy.  (But like everything else, I look back on these pictures and have a hard time remembering the bad parts, so I guess that is a good thing.)

I would love to hear what sort of stories you have been writing!  Please share.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2016 in Review: New Recipes

I was reminiscing with my college housemates on the food we used to eat and how none of us eat any of the same things anymore.  (Which isn't *too* surprising as college students eat a log of ramen, etc., but we also made our own bread and cooked from scratch too.)  It seems as though I am constantly revamping our food and food preferences.  Sometimes the changes are drastic (i.e. GAPS) and permanent (Celiac), and others are not so permanent (corn, dairy).  Since moving to Washington, we have cut back on the amount of meat that we eat.  Partly this is due to not having a half a cow tucked away in our freezer and partly due to finances.  I try to have every other meal a vegetarian one.  Mr. F. is also trying to avoid dairy (except for butter and cream), and so I look for meals that are either dairy free or have the option to easily be so.  (I.e. here is your dairy-free version honey, now the kids and I will load ours with grated cheese and sour cream.)

Last year, the unintended theme was: crockpot.  This year, it seams to be: salads.  Below are meals that were new to us this year and made it to the table around 3 times so far.

{Images are from the linked sources below}

Southwestern Hash: I don't think this even requires a recipe since I don't actually follow the recipe that inspired me.  I usually saute' an onion and green chili together in some oil and 1/2 teaspoon cumin.  I add 2 pounds of some semi-cooked yukon potatoes using this method.  When potatoes are done, I add some drained canned black beans and saute' until warm.  At the end, I add a cup of cut up cherry tomatoes, avocado if available, grated cheese, and 3 scallions chopped.

Slow cooker beef on rice: This isn't going to win any awards, but it is easy and tasty.  All the requirements needed for me to add it to our rotation.  After cooking, we thicken up the sauce using a roux.  In a separate pan, melt 1/2 cup butter and add 1/2 cup of flour.  Cook a bit until it doesn't taste floury anymore and then add the liquid from the crockpot.  Simmer until it has thickened and then add the beef back in.  As this is the only way we have ever prepared it, I can not vouch for the recipe as written.

Chicken BLT chopped salad:  My kids are now to the age where I can serve salads as a main dish, and they eat it.  It is a glorious thing.  I usually defrost some already cooked chicken for this.  I like the dressing but my kids prefer ranch, and Mr. F does whatever he feels like that day (not being a fan of any lemon dressing.)

Confetti rice and bean salad: this is a great salad to take when camping or on a road trip.  We like to eat it with tortilla chips.  I also add tomatoes and feta cheese.

Steak salad: another main dish salad that I like, especially the dressing.  I just use regular lettuce and whatever sort of steak I can find on sale.

Potato Salad: I never used to make potato salad because it was so time consuming.  However, I discovered that I could cook the potatoes and the eggs together in the pressure cooker for 3 minutes on high (quick release afterwards) and both came out perfectly!  Suddenly, it was a really easy salad to make.  Mr. F. likes green onions in his potato salad so I will probably add them in the future.  Also, I make half of this and always add more eggs (6 or 7) than it calls for.  I also never use all of the dressing.  Also, I don't include the olives.

Grilled Chicken and Lemon Salad: Another great salad for camping.  You can bring marinated chicken to quickly grill at the campsite and then add it to the already prepped vegetables.  We never use the zucchini and always add extra peas and peppers.  You can broil the chicken too, if you don't have a grill handy at home.

O.k. so those are the new recipes that have been made at least three times.  There were some new recipes that we liked that I can see repeating in the future, but we have only made them once this year.  So, I am including them as honorable mentions:

Lime coconut chicken
Roasted garlic beef sandwiches
Crockpot white bean chili (dairy free potentially)
Artichoke gratin toasts. Full disclosure.  Kids did not like them, but Mr. F. and I did.
White bean, chard, pancetta pot pies.  Made this with kale as I don't like chard, and bacon since I never buy pancetta.  Will try a version without bacon soon.  Also, I just made this as a stew and then cooked some biscuits separately (to place on top or beneath, or as a side.)
Black bean nachos.

Have you discovered any new recipes lately?  Or do you want to share some family favorites?  I am always, always looking for new recipes.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

2016 in Review: Favorite Books

I had a pretty slow year: 39 books total.  This is compared to 59, 52, 24(new baby!), 52, and 42 for years 2015-2011.  Part of this was health related.  Sometimes when I have thyroid issues, I develop what I can only assume must be temporary ADD or something similar.  Before, I never understood how people could have a hard time reading, but now I get it.  Sometimes, I get in the space where I just *can't* concentrate enough to follow a storyline for a few hundred pages.  The same is true for audio books.  During these moments, I consume information in short chunks like podcasts and blog posts.  This has been less of an issue lately (thank goodness!), but I found it challenging to go back to reading and listening for longer periods of time.  It was important to find the right book to suck me in. Luckily, there were some good ones.

I narrowed my favorites down to 10.  Not too difficult when I only read 39.

My Lady Jane: Such a wild, fun read.  It alters history a bit and adds a hint of fantastical to the story line.  So enjoyable!

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal: this was a book we read for book club.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own.  It was such a great, inspiring, true story.  The pacing is great and the descriptions really transport you.

Rules of Civility:  I read one review that gave this a few meager stars and called it a Great Gatsby knockoff.  I say, this is a thousand times more enjoyable to read than the Great Gatsby.  Set in the same time period with similar themes, but not full of despair and hopelessness like other Great American Novels.  I think the main difference, besides the lack of despair, is the likable characters. My credibility must now be shot.

Goodbye Stranger:  I love how this author writes YA.  So much YA can feel so over the top, you know?  And I guess some teenagers are like that.  But this author writes more along the lines of what I experienced: friendships and just trying to figure things out.  Oh, and my teenage heart just swoons for the likes of Sherman.

The Nightingale: A really great WWII novel.  Lots of feels in this book, but so worth it.

The Truth According to Us: I hear a lot of about finding books in your wheelhouse.  This book exemplifies the types of books I love: great character development, a bit of mysteriousness, likable characters (for the most part), historical fiction, and a smidgen of small-town America.

Still Alice: I put off this book a long time because.....depressing.  And sure, now I am forever paranoid that I am experiencing early-onset Alzheimers, but still, such a great book.

Mao's Last Dancer: Another bookclub pick.  The writing is a bit simplistic (perhaps due to English not be his primary language), but the story is awesome.  Of course, as a former dancer, I might be biased.

Ok.  And now, if I were to name my top favorite books of the year, it would be these last two:

Being Mortal: I swear my book club is so tired of me brining this up, but I can't stop thinking and talking about this book.  Seriously, everyone needs to read it.

A Man Called Ove: Like I said in my Goodreads review: I think I just have a thing for grumpy old men.  Maybe I have the soul of a grumpy old man, and so I can relate.  But I just loved how this was written--the layers of Ove slowly being exposed over the course of the novel.  So good.

That was me.  Already starting the year off with some good reads, so am hopeful for 2017.  What was your favorite book you read in 2016?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Christmas 2016

I just finished reading a book, "A million miles in a thousand years," which is actually a crap title for a really thought provoking book.  It is the sort of book that I need to re-read a few times in my life so that I can remind myself of how I want to live, or construct my story.  I also want my own copy so I can underline the heck out of it.  One quote (straight off the jacket for that matter) I want to share and why I am writing this on a post about Christmas (even though I read this book well after Christmas happened):
"The saddest thing about life is you don't remember half of it.  You don't even remember half of half of it.  Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth.  I've got this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers.  If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he'll write it down.  The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories.  He's the only guy I know who remembers his life.  He said he captures memories because if he forgets them, it's as though they didn't happen, it's as though he hadn't lived the parts he doesn't remember."
And so, even though this is a very imperfect account that doesn't even attempt to be more or less up to date, it is the only account I have at the moment.

Come Christmas time, I always have this crazy long list of things I want to make/do.  I tried to be reasonable this year so I just let a lot of great ideas and intentions go.  The tree skirt I have been meaning to make for 3 years?  It is going to be at least 4.  The homemade ornaments I was going to make?  Well, they will save for next year too (or the year after that).

Things we did do:

  • We made homemade gingerbread cookies.  I even found some natural food dye (at a store that shall not be named) so my kids could have fun with the decorations vs just resorting to plain white icing like we have done in the past.  Although, in the spirit of honesty, I messed up the frosting and it was super grainy, but don't tell the kids.  I don't think they noticed.
  • We did make *some* homemade ornaments.  I introduced perler beads to my children (and it was the first year for me too), and they went a little gaga.  As in, we are still making ornaments in January for next year.  We just used the patterns from the perler bead website. 
  • We continued with our Christmas book advent.  Although this year it was a bit harder as we often didn't have time to read the book before Finn had to go to school.  However, it still one of my favorite traditions. 
  • We made homemade Christmas cards, and I typed up a Christmas letter.  In case you are rolling your eyes at the craftiness of it all, I will say 1) it keeps my kids occupied. 2) I have a Christmas card list that is in the 30's.  We keep it to immediate family and really close friends. 3) I am not sure that the end product is really to be desired, but by golly, people are getting them anyway.  Oh, and then I throw in a family picture in there that we might have taken during the year and print it off at Target.  #lowexpectations.
  • We went to some local events although not as many as I would have liked.  My town really takes their Norwegian heritage seriously, so we started the Christmas season by holding the hands of strangers while making a circle around a Christmas tree and singing carols.  We also ogled grown men and women dressed as Vikings and carrying torches, and we tried not to burn ourselves when said vikings lit "the yule log" or as any normal person would call it, a pyre. And eventually, we took a drive to see some Christmas lights.....but after Christmas.  

  • I made the necessary treats that show up in the Christmas stockings: homemade fig newtons, gingerbread people, chex mix, and protein snack balls.  I had more elaborate plans, but those got scaled back, and I did what was manageable. 

  • The kids made giant Christmas trees to decorate their bedroom doors with. Mr. F. is king of fun projects, and as you can guess, this was all his idea.  The kids *loved* this.

  • We took the kids Christmas shopping.  This was a first for us.  We helped kids pay for the toy and tried to keep the toy in a reasonable price point.  I was impressed by the thought that went into the gift.  They picked what they thought the other would like, and they were right!  I loved seeing how excited they were for the other person to open their gift.  

  • We had our second annual shepherd's meal.  This is where we spread out a blanket on the floor near the Christmas tree and eat a meal of naan, salami, clementines, dried fruit, goat cheese, etc. by the light of the Christmas tree lights.  We then read the Christmas story.  I love this new tradition of ours since it is such a low key plus meaningful way to spend Christmas eve. However, it does present a problem of when to have a "nice" Christmas dinner.  We ended up having ours on the 26th as neither Mr. F. or I were interested in cooking Christmas day.  Any one have a similar issue out there?
  • I made cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. I am still on a quest for the perfect gluten-free cinnamon roll.  I made one up this year (and last year's too), and it still needs a lot of work (or just an actual recipe, perhaps?).  I also made a hash brown casserole with bacon and veggies that the children spurned, but ended up saving my butt when I didn't want to make dinner that night.  Casserole anyone?

If this Christmas had a theme, it was "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."  I am still a novice at balance when it comes to the holidays, but I am trying to be better.  And honestly, my health (or lack there of during stressful situations) keeps me in check.   I want to find this mystical balance between enjoying the holidays and also structuring them to make them exciting for all of us.  But, I guess that is the point, it doesn't really exist.  I can only pat myself on the back for my effort this year.

The best thing I did was to take pictures so I can remember the good times.  You can see more here.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why I Sew

This Halloween, I decided to make the kids matching trick-or-treat bags, as one does when they have too many things going on.  My mom had made my next older sister and I matching bags when I was younger, and I LOVED them. Also, while Finn inherited my old bag, I had nothing for Enna.  Previously we had used a wee knit bag that came with some of her stuffed fruit.  This was fine for a 1 and 2 year old, but I knew it would not fly this year.  (See picture documentation.)

See Enna's wee bag.  Finn is holding my old trick-or-treat bag
I got quite excited about the project.  I figured out a pattern I could use (the drawstring bag from "Little Things to Sew"), I added appliqued cat and ghosts, and I tried a new-to-me technique of free-hand embroidery to add the words, "Trick or Treat" to the other side of the bags.  It was while doing this new technique that I inadvertently broke my machine.  I was able to finish the embroidery part, but my machine was seriously skipping stitches and needed to be fixed.  I could not actually construct the bags in its current state.

I was so bummed!  The shop gave me an estimate of 12 working days before it would be fixed.  They had the day before received a huge influx of machines that needed servicing.  In a final plea, I asked the women in my congregation via a Facebook post if anyone had a machine that they would let me borrow so that I could finish the bags.  I just really wanted to be able to finish the project before Halloween, less than a week away.

One woman responded.  She is a mother of 9(?) kids.  Her responses were along the line of, "Why are you even doing this?  Why don't you just use pillowcases?"  And yes, I can see that as a mother of nine, sewing trick-or-treat bags for your kids is probably not the best use of your time.  And if it was just her, maybe (ha! probably not), I could have let it go.  However, I also detected a bit of resistance from Mr. F. in regards to my sewing.  So, I felt there were at least a few people who were silently or not so silently questioning my decision to sew and whether my time could be better spent elsewhere.

I felt people were missing the point, but I hadn't really articulated in my mind what that point was.  I spent a lot of time thinking about my desire to sew.  Finally, it hit me.  First of all, sewing is a creative outlet.  This point is valid, but could also be viewed by people as extraneous--something to be indulged in when one has the time.  However, sewing for me in my current situation is also an intellectual outlet.  Yes, I could read scientific journals and brush up on my statistics.  But I currently have no application for this knowledge.  Ultimately, I would forget most of what I read.  Sewing provides a lot of new material to read up on, especially in regards to alteration and fit.  I have to educate myself on different types of fabrics, construction methods, etc.  I then get to use that information to make useful, wearable clothing for myself and my kids.  There is the challenge of taking a two-dimensional drawing and making it fit on a three-dimensional person.  And as I am pretty much a novice to all of this, I have loads of stuff to keep me intellectually engaged for a long time.  Making meals, cleaning the house, breaking up arguments, etc: none of these activities really provide me with a whole lot of intellectual stimulation.  They are worthwhile activities and need to be done, but they do no fill the void of wanting to learn, apply, and create.

This is the point that I made to my husband as he was stuck, prisoner in the car for an hour on our way to the pumpkin patch last month.  He gets to go to work, think about useful, practical, intellectual things and then apply them.  He gets to associate with colleagues and have adult conversations with them.  No, he does not have any time to pursue any of his hobbies that he is interested in.  And for this, I think he perhaps felt a bit resentful that I was pursuing my interest of sewing.  However, I think he finally understood, that it was more than just a creative hobby of mine.  That, currently, sewing is filling an intrinsic need for me as an adult to stimulate my brain.  Are there other venues for this?  Certainly.  In the past, some of this need has been met by photography and even blogging.  I am sure that the activity will change as my situation does.  

Luckily, I was able to find someone willing to lend me their machine so that I could frantically finish the bags prior to all the Halloween festivities.  I felt a lot of satisfaction seeing them being toted around and filled with candy.  And, hooray hooray, my machine is back from the shop so I can start attacking all the projects I have in mind.  


Monday, November 7, 2016

October Happenings--the 2016 edition--in which a lot happens in a very small amount of time.

The holiday craziness is upon us!  This is always such a hectic time of year.  I feel pressure to make sure the holidays are fun and meaningful, while trying to manage my health and well-being.  Having Finn in school has added to the craziness as there are special, holiday-related activities to participate in as well.  (And I am fully aware that this isn't the half of it!  I hear the older mothers chiming in with, "wait until he has concerts, games, etc."  Don't worry.  I see the apocalypse coming.)  I just wish all the joy was spread out over the entire four weeks instead of just the one.

Pumpkin Patch
First off, we visited a pumpkin patch.  This required some prior research on my part since we are new to the area.  I searched community Facebook pages to see which were the best "patches" in the area. There was MUCH agreement that one of the best ones was an hour away at the tip of the Hood Canal.  The day started out very much like a badly written and cliche' sitcom.  The kids were misbehaving beforehand and Mr. F. was super sick and cranky, but it was the last second to last weekend in October and it was slotted to be a gorgeous PNW day, and by jingo, we were going, and we were going to ENJOY it, even if it killed us all.  On the ride down, the kids tried our patience even more by complaining about how long it was taking, even though I had mentioned repeatedly that it was going to be a long drive.  *Sigh*.  However, once we got there, despite it being PACKED and having to move around the mass of humanity, we enjoyed ourselves.  The place was extremely well run which made the mass of humanity a bit less soul-sucking than I would normally find such things.  It was the first pumpkin patch I had been to where you actually went out into the fields and picked pumpkins!  My kids decided to pick the biggest pumpkins they could find, and Mr. F. had to manage hauling both of them to and from the wagon and car.  (I had my own pumpkin, of course, so I couldn't help.)
Enna loved looking at all the animals, and both kids enjoyed sliding down the black tube tunnel slide set up in part of the hay maze.  I might try something closer next year and not quite so commercial.  We will see.

Children's Museum
Finn had parent teacher conferences the last few days the week prior to Halloween.  I originally played around with taking the opportunity to visit Seattle, but the cost of everything (ferries, said activity, etc.) started tallying up.  A friend suggested we go with her and her daughters to the Children's Museum in Tacoma.  There is free parking, a free train ride, and the museum itself is by donation.  Perfect!  The kids loved every single part of the experience and were asking me as we left when we could go again.  I loved it because I didn't have to deal with my two kids destroying a very small space for the entire day.  Win/win!

Trick or Treat Street
Finn's school hosts a Trick or Treat Street for the community each year.  The PTSA decorates the school and the teachers dress up and pass out candy.  It was really fun.  However, it was also very popular. About 1000 people come.  They are good about letting people in slowly so that it isn't too crowded in the school.  I couldn't really take a lot of pictures because most of it was rather dark, lighted only by strings of lights, etc.

Salmon Viewing Days
So the county has salmon viewing days at different river locations in October/November since this is when a lot of the chum salmon return.  Obviously, I had to go, because once a Salmon Girl, always a Salmon Girl.  I saw one listed at a park near our house and decided it would be perfect.  In theory, yes.  However, it was 1) raining and 2) no salmon were swimming upstream to view.  Honestly, it was the second one that bothered me the most.  I asked which creek/river was the best to view returning salmon, so I will use that information for later/next time.  (And of course, this is the time to plug the necessity of restoring salmon habitat!)  Grandma and Grandpa had arrived by then and came with us, and Grandpa was there to take pictures.  I love the break from being the family photographer.  It is also the only time we get shots of us all as a family.

Carving Pumpkins
Both Mr. F. and I got sick right when Grandma and Grandpa came.  I guess that was convenient. Anyway, it was nice to take a break and to "delegate" the job of carving pumpkins to Grandma and Grandpa.  (O.k., I sort of planned that when I saw the GIGANTIC pumpkins that kids picked out at the patch.)  Finn carved his pumpkin almost entirely by himself.  Grandma was saying how his arms were shaking as he was sawing away.  Enna showed Grandpa how she wanted the face to look on paper.  Despite the success of the carving, I dropped the ball because we didn't have any candles to put in the pumpkins once carved, and we never got any in time before the pumpkins rotted and had to be tossed.  There were tears.  Weeping and wailing.  And once I again, I was reminded about how I routinely fail as a mother. *Sigh*

Trick or Treating
Downtown hosts trick or treating for two hours (4-6) on Halloween.  All the shops hand out candy, it is light enough and early enough for young kids, and it is PACKED!  However, everyone is super nice and considerate so it isn't too bad.  I loved seeing all the kids in costume, and there was such a feeling of small-town camaraderie.  We were done in about an hour, we came home and had dinner, and the kids were in bed close to the time they normally are.  Trick or treating for the win!  There are a lot of fun pictures that Grandpa took, so check out the rest of the pictures on flickr (along with all the other pictures from all the other activities that I didn't share.)

I decided to try the Switch Witch this year.  Due to all our allergies (Enna is allergic to nuts, and I have Celiac), we are left with very little candy for us to eat.  The candy that is left is all full-sugar, nothing remotely healthy, full of dyes, etc.  Gag.  Anyway, it is always depressing.  So I decided that it would be the best for everyone just to let the kids keep a few pieces (Six.  I let them keep six) and the rest would be left for the Switch Witch.  In return for the candy, a toy would be left in the bag for the kids. This kids loved the toys and were happy with the few pieces of candy left for them.  Parenting win!

Cookie Decorating
Not pictured, is the cookie decorating.  I decided that it would be awesome to decorate sugar cookies (which I never make), and so I ordered some halloween cookie cutters online.  Well, it was craziness before Halloween, so we made them the day afterwards.  It was a hit.  I actually used only half the dough.  (I used this recipe for the dough with modifications and this for the icing.)  And guys, I am so lame.  I just can't bring myself to use regular food dye.  I need to buy some natural ones.  The kids are always so sad when I say with fake cheerfulness that we will just be using one color!  (In retrospect, I should have made chocolate icing, since that would have been great for the faces on pumpkin, ghosts, etc.  Instead, I just left it white.)

Friday, September 2, 2016

First Day of First Grade

Choosing to homeschool Finn for kindergarten was the best decision for us, especially as we moved in the middle of the year.  However, I experienced severe burnout by the end.  Right before the move and after, I stopped doing the fun projects and just concentrated on the basics, sometimes skipping even that.  In honesty, I resented the time that school work took when I had so much else I needed to do.  In addition, I was homeschooling while coping with an autoimmune disease.  This meant I had a limited amount of energy.  If something didn't get done before noon or 2 o'clock at the latest, it didn't get done.  I felt a lot of pressure to get the most needful things done by that time: dinner, homeschool, laundry, other food preparation (breakfast, yogurt, bread, etc.)  There was just so much to cram into such a small window of time.

Finn and I also were experiencing a disconnect.  He was bored during the large amount of unstructured time during the day and causing trouble.  I spent all my time disciplining him.  There was a lot of yelling, and this really stressed our relationship.

Our recent move placed us into a good school district.  I repeatedly heard great things about the local elementary school from everyone I encountered (therapist, hair dresser, other parents).  However despite the fact that everything pointed to Finn needing to attend public school this year, I still doubted and worried.  I had drunk the homeschool kool-aid, and changing felt like failure.  Part of me really disliked the relinquishing of control over everything: curriculum, environment, knowing what was going on, etc.  Part of me worried about interactions with other children.  Would they be nice?  Mean?  I had *huge* anxiety over lunch.  What would I send?  Would he want to eat the cafeteria food?  Would he want what other kids were eating more than what he ate?   Would he throw away the food?  (I mean seriously, I don't know why my anxiety was greatest over the lunch situation, but it was.  In actuality, it is fine.)  And then I worried whether he would be academically challenged enough.  With homeschooling, you work on an individual level vs teaching to the class average or even lowest common denominator.  I knew I would be giving that up.

Enough dithering.  Obviously, I felt all the feels, so let's talk about how it went.  

Too intent on getting on the bus that he can't spare a full glance my way.  See ya mom!

Finn's thoughts?  It was such an exciting day.  He had so much to tell me after his first day, so many exciting things to share.  First, there were so many new rules and new routines.  There were recess "policemen" (his words) with whistles!  Different whistle sounds mean different things: line up on the line, stop playing, etc.  There were the school rules to learn!  He typed up a sentence on the computer!  There were Lego books on math to read!  He loved morning work!  He shared with me how lunch worked and told me that he was the first one to finish eating.  He said that other kids had more food, but his was more filling, and I had packed the perfect amount of food to eat.  He told me about the different activities available at recess.  He enjoyed riding the bus and sharing with me the things that happened.  (A boy missed his bus stop!)  He made a new friends on the bus!--a girl from the neighborhood that lives up the street.  The first thing he said when he got off the bus was, "the only problem with the bus is that it is too loud all the time.  The bus driver said he couldn't even hear." (The second day, he reported that it was a bit quieter.)  When we lie down at night, there are still more stories for him to share.  Tonight, after I had put Enna to bed, I came in to lie down with Finn, and he said, "can we talk about school now?"  We hadn't really stopped talking about school, but bedtime is his time to share everything without being interrupted by anything or anyone else.

This look?!  Kills me.  He is so excited and happy here.
How did I like the first day of school?  It was, in a word, heavenly.  There were a total of three time-outs for the entire day (right at bedtime of course.)  And three time-outs? Cake when you haven't spent the entire day refereeing a death match.  My well of patience at the end of the day is still full and brimming vs. barren and desiccated.  Enna and I were able to spend some quality time together, and as she is much more capable of entertaining herself than other children I could mention, I was able to get so much more done than normal.  Heck, I even cleaned our bathrooms, and if you don't think that is a celebration, you obviously have not seen the state of our bathrooms. It is also nice to know that after-school time is dedicated to my children.  I have a large chunk of time during the day to get my things done so that when Finn comes home, I can focus on him.  This wasn't so clear cut before when we were homeschooling, everything blended together.

I am sure the novelty will wear off, and Finn might not find school quite so thrilling.  However, after all my worry and anxiety, I am so grateful for a positive first day of first grade.



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