Thursday, May 17, 2018

Late Spring Means All the Feels


Just about any mother will tell you there are countless bittersweet moments that arise from the very beginning of parenthood.

For me, many of these feelings are especially powerful in late spring, a time when certain events/patterns/routines come to an end, and new beginnings are on the horizon.

In the next week, my daughter-- my baby-- will graduate from preschool. If you've been reading my blog since the early days, surely this shocks you as much as it does me. This is my second baby, who was born September 12, 2012. That makes her 5.5. (Yes, she missed our kindergarten cut-off by 11 days!).





Recently, I've been feeling myself tear up when a certain nostalgic song plays on the radio or when I'm dropping her off and picking her up from school. 

We drive by her future kindergarten and part of me is excited for this new chapter, I'll admit. For the first time in over 8 years, my days will be my own again. I'm excited to get back into the classroom again more, devote more time to writing and tutoring, take care of our pets and our house, and even indulge in a little self-care now and then.

But mixed into that excitement is a sense of loss. I'm sad this chapter of our life-- little feet in velcro shoes scrambling to get ready for preschool after her big brother gets on the bus, attending every one of those crazy and adorable preschool Christmas concerts, even just time spent lying around on the couch together in the afternoons...all those little things we shared for the last few years will be over.

I hope she'll still say "I love you" as heartfelt and as fervently as she does every morning now when I drop her off. Though I know surely these profusions of emotions will fade as she gets older. I wonder if she'll remember all the time we spent together, just the two of us while her brother was in school, doing simple everyday things-- eating English muffin pizzas for lunch, kicking an old soccer ball in the yard, making dozens and dozens of cookies, or just running to the grocery and convincing her not to dump every bag of Nestle chocolate chips into our cart.

What an overwhelming sense of gratitude and grief these transitions bring us. What's your next chapter going to bring?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Writing for Fun and for Purpose


Now that years of blogging has turned into a dream-come-true freelance writing career (not magically, but after long hours, patience, honing my craft, dedication, and many a bruised ego later), sometimes I forget why I started blogging in the first place: for fun!

Yes, the purpose of Frantic Mama was to reach out to other mothers and to serve as a creative outlet for the frustrations and joys of new motherhood, but it was also simply because I love writing and always have. Why not blog?

It's easy for me to forget now-- in a world of deadlines, nerve-racking interviews, and editor expectations-- that the primary reason I type away on my trusty little computer in any spare hour I have rather than, say...go to a yoga class or clean my house...is because it's a part of me. If I go too long without writing for the pure enjoyment of it, I start experiencing a very specific feeling of malaise that something is missing. It takes a bit of soul-searching for me to put my finger on what is causing the funk. Which is ridiculous because I should know by now.

Oh well.

Here's my point: One of my new professional writing avenues has been animal writing (yeah, it's a thing), often equestrian-focused. If you know me in person (and have for a long time), you know I'm kind of obsessed with animals-- big, small, tiny. All of them.

To live out my goal of having more fun in my writing and finding ways to contribute to animal welfare, I've volunteered to help out a dog rescue and adoption organization with their website content (NBRAN: the National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network). I am really excited about it-- and to think, I'm not getting paid! Not a cent! And I'm glad! Taking on un-paid opportunities to write is the best kind of fun for a writer.


Photo from NBRAN Website: the National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network

[Pssst... I can't keep secrets from all of you! I do have a wee bit of a side motive here: I'm working on convincing Frantic Mama Hubby that the time has come for us to add our (hopefully) final family member to our pack!]

Here's the rescue organization's site. I'm writing the bios for all the sweet Brittanys (one of my favorite breeds of all time) who need loving homes as well as other content/newsletter stuff.

In the meantime, I have a little takeaway for anyone wanting one: remember to make time for fun in your life. Of course I know writing essays and blog posts isn't everyone's definition of fun, but what's your definition of fun? And how will you make time for it in your own life to be the best, happiest version of yourself you can be?

Yes, you are busy. So am I. We all are. (Have you ever met someone who said they weren't). A third generation (very busy) Nebraskan rancher I recently interviewed said this: "Busy people find the time." If I weren't married, I'd fall in love with the guy! Truer words were never spoken. I totally agree-- if you want to do something, you can and deserve to make the time to do it.

I'd love to hear from other mothers (and fathers) who are busy with children, careers, hubbies, etc., but who make time for pure, un-paid FUN. How do you do it and what do you do?

Cheers!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Family Member (no, not a baby!)



I had no shortage of pets growing up. Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish... you name it, we likely had it!

Then last year, my own family brought home our first family pet-- a sweet, tiny, fluffy calico kitty, Pikachu (named by my son). My little guy had been in love with cats as long as he could talk, and he got me on board quickly. As luck would have it, at the barn where I ride (yes, horses are another 'pet' of sorts), a quiet little calico looked less than thrilled with being a barn cat (year after year!).

She made the PERFECT transition to our home and we wouldn't trade her for the world. I think she was holding out for us all those years on the barn bench.

Fast forward a year, and welllll... I might have been scrolling through the Humane Society "adoptable animals" page late one night [#insomniaprobs] and happened on a photo of the most charming, unusual little creature I had ever seen. Upon closer inspection, it turned out he was a Lionhead Rabbit. And he needed a home.

The next day was Valentine's Day, and I figured it couldn't hurt to go take a peek at him and also give the other homeless animals some love on that day of love. My daughter and I had a wonderful time there and of course decided it was up to us to give the somewhat grumpy, fluffy gray bunny a new lease on life in a loving home.



The next day, I had things ready for him at our house, and he was now officially named Georgie (i.e. Sir Wigglestail III).  Naturally, he was shy and scared of us at first. But I read everything I could on rabbits, and he is really seeming to be enjoying his new digs, and we are giving him the space he needs to feel comfortable here.

He's a free-roam bunny, which means he has run of our entire upstairs most of the day! Yes, you can litter train rabbits! They are much happier when they have plenty of room to hop around. He loves his greens and his hay, and I've even caught him 'playing' a bit-- hopping as fast as he can down the hallway. I imagine he would say "bah humbug" a lot if he could talk, but that only endears him to us even more.

The only slight challenge has been introducing him to our sweet "Peeks." You see, cats are predators, and bunnies are prey. Yeah. Though they are both adorable little fluffy-fluffs, that doesn't mean they become instant best friends.


So far, the interactions are going fine. Pikachu and Georgie are starting to slowly approach each other and sniff (under our supervision). Georgie usually ends up getting gun-shy and offers a big thump and hops away. I have the sense Pikachu's feelings get a little hurt feelings from this, so I'm determined to keep trying.

Here they are! Doing their best to ignore each other!


Updates will continue! Be sure to follow our adventures with Georgie the Bunny and Pikachu the Cat on Instagram (where I apparently can't stop posting photos of them)! (www.Instagram.com/FranticMama).

Do you have pets? What kind and what will you get next???

~Julia and her budding zoo @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Stuck at the Airport [with kids]



There's being stuck at the airport, and there's being stuck at the airport with kids. Catch my drift?

I live in Minnesota, halfway across the country from my entire family, who are currently scattered along the east coast. Flying to see them is a requirement. Somewhat last minute, my husband and I decided to take our kids to see their cousins who live in North Carolina. We splurged on non-stop Delta flights, of course, because anything to make traveling with kids easier is worth it, no matter the cost!

Fast forward a couple of weeks...

We get to the airport an hour and a half before our flight leaves. Everyone is excited. The kids are in good spirits. I hate flying, but even I'm excited to get on a plane to see my family BUT... the second-- I'm not exaggerating-- we survived the security line, I received a notification from Delta that our flight was delayed two hours. Collective GROAN.

Deep breaths...

"We'll go to a restaurant for lunch!" we agreed, knowing that delays are simply a part of life and we would get through it. Maybe we could have a fun little outing with the kids, you know, make the most of it?

Next thing you know, we are ordering our overpriced airport restaurant lunch... DING!... our flight was delayed another 2 hours. TWO hours. This means that a flight that was supposed to leave at 12:50 was now scheduled to depart at 4:30. Dear Lord!

Close to hyperventilating, I told my husband that perhaps it was in our kids' best interest to go home. Keeping them at the airport for four hours, with no real guarantee the flight would even take off, seems cruel and unusual punishment. I tried to get on standby for the 3:30 flight to no avail.

My husband calmly looked out the airport window, acknowledged it was below zero outside, and the kids would be stuck inside at home all day anyway, we might as well spend it at the airport... right? right???

Sure, I guess, I said, surveying the crowd, the shops, the fast food. And my kids, who were now angry and annoyed that they didn't get to see their cousins ASAP.

Hours later....

I will spare you the details of how we entertained a 5 and a 7 year old at the airport for the next four hours because IT GETS WORSE: We were given so little information about our 4:30 plane that we called Delta and rebooked the...wait for it... 8:30 p.m. flight.


Yes, they still managed a few smiles. But if you tell me "it couldn't be that bad," I will lose it.
You've been warned!


I still don't know if that was the smart decision or not, but we were scared they would cancel the 4:30 flight (supposedly there was some 'part' being flown in from Detroit... comforting much?), so we took a gamble and rebooked (and yes had to pay extra). At this point, however, we weren't going to have been stranded at the airport all day with nothing to show for it-- we would make it to North Carolina or BUST!

Hours later....

Woo hoo! Good times at the airport. NOT! 
If I were a different type of "mom blogger," or person in general, 
I'd tell you we had a blast. But no, not at all. 
We did NOT have a blast.



Yes, still there! You'd think we would have been used to disappointment by 8 p.m. that night (and another overpriced airport meal). After all, we had been at the airport since 10:30 a.m.

DING! When we were supposed to board that flight, the gate agent announced that the plane that was to take us to NC? The one we were supposed to be boarding in a few minutes? Yeah, that one was in Omaha, Nebraska. 

NOOOOO!

The tears I had held back all day let loose. I looked at my exhausted kids and husband. I decided this was definitely NOT in their best interest anymore. It was time to throw in the towel and get home. At least our cat would be excited to see us. Perhaps we could try to rebook for another weekend.

It was my KIDS who insisted they could do it. They could stick it out. They really reallllly wanted to see their cousins: they'd sleep, they promised. They'd be good, they promised.

My husband and I looked at each other. Okay, but if it gets delayed one more time, we are heading home. I was so delirious at this point, I can't remember if we said that aloud or whether we had developed a rare, airport-induced ESP.

By 9:40 that night, we were finally on a plane, heading southeast. The kids slept the whole time. My husband and I sat there in an exhausted trance. We arrived at 1:30 local time. IN THE MORNING. My mom managed to set an alarm and come get us (thus qualifying for sainthood), and the kids were in bed by about 2:30 A.M.

I fell into a bed I found somewhere in her house and woke up many hours later.

The point of the whole thing, the takeaway? Well, I must say, the kids were the biggest troopers of the day. I may have thrown in the towel several times that day if it weren't for them hanging in there and being enthusiastic about the trip. Plus, we had a great weekend with their cousins. I suppose it was worth it. Just barely. But worth it.

And Thank Goodness, our flight home was uneventful.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama




Friday, December 8, 2017

Why I Hate Mondays (no, not the obvious reason)


The worst day of my week is Monday, but not for the obvious reasons. Before I had kids, I was the strange soul who enjoyed Mondays, seeing them as a fresh start to the workweek. The reason I dread them now is because my seven-year old son hates them and makes our whole family suffer as a result.

Every Monday at 4 p.m., he has to do the one thing he [claims] he hates most: attend a piano lesson. The entire ordeal lasts a measly 30 minutes, but add to that the painful minutes leading up to it: “I HATE piano! I want to quit!” and after it: “That was the WORST LESSON EVER. Now when can I quit?!” and you've got yourself a miserable few hours.





Quitting piano lessons would be the easiest route for all of us. There are times I've daydreamed right along with my son about the joys of quitting. Ahhhh, I think, how happy we'd be, without the piano battles. How peaceful our home would be, as we sit around playing Candy Land and baking cookies. What would I do with all that glorious free time [i.e. the 5 minutes per day I spend convincing him to practice]?

And yet. My husband and I haven't given into this siren song. We just can't pull the trigger on the dreamy quitting fantasy because we ask ourselves this: Does making life easier mean it would be better? So far we think the answer is no.

We aren't forcing our child to take lessons in order to pump up our own egos, so that at family reunions and school concerts we can bashfully accept compliments on his behalf, blushing politely. Thankfully, neither of us sees his talents as reflecting our own value; some twisted need to produce a prodigy doesn't motivate us.

We have four much more practical reasons we suffer right along with him:

  1. He'll thank us later. He will, right? Doesn't every single one of us who quit an instrument regret it? If we can endure the whining during the early years, my son won't have to add quitting his instrument to his list of regrets when he hits middle age. He is getting a gift here, though he may not appreciate it for many agonizing years to come.
  2. There's a life lesson at play we want our kids to learn-- you can't just quit everything that is either A. hard, or B. sucky. As adults, we know there are certain parts of life we simply must push on with, despite how much joy they suck from our lives. Bills must be paid, toilets must be cleaned, assignments must be completed, reunions must be attended.
  3. Piano doesn't necessarily come easily to my son, and as a result, he 'hates' it. We think there's inherent value in not throwing in the towel because something is challenging. Have you ever done anything great--- something you're really proud of-- that was easy? Me neither.
  4. Last, learning music helps in other aspects of life. For a growing child, simply the act of listening to music activates and nourishes the brain, but learning to play music coaxes the brain into boot camp. My husband and I remind ourselves often that by encouraging our son's brain to workout and stimulate all those electrifying neurons, he can grow to see his full potential and stretch to reach any goals he may dream up.

While all these compelling reasons feel rather flimsy on Monday afternoons at 3:30 p.m. when I pick up my son from school and I feel the scowl on his face even before I see it, onward we go! Anyway, didn't Nietzsche say “to live is to suffer?” If so, we're definitely living.

What do you think? Seize the day and quit, quit, quit, or keep on keeping on?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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