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This is the first week in 31 months where I’ve had to make myself look presentable before 7 a.m. Three days in a row. And counting. So now you know it’s true: I’ve made the leap back into paid employment.

KidsVT, that esteemed magazine whose editors kindly publish words I’ve written, printed an essay where I did some reflecting. On my life. And the lessons I’ve learned recently. Follow this link to read it: From Working Mom to Stay-at-Home Mom… and Back Again.

To prepare myself for the shock of reentering the workforce, I spent the last 30 days of my “mommy sabbatical” focused not so much on my family but on myself. I hosted and went to mommy coffees, sweated liters of water during Body Combat, lunched out, went skiing, practiced taekwondo, attempted yoga, caught a few shows, ran a 5K, went on a Downton Abbey sleepover, and otherwise thoroughly enjoyed the company of an amazingly wide circle of women (and a few men) who I am so incredibly fortunate to call “friends.” It was an amazing month. Thank you all!

Oh, don’t worry. I hardly neglected my family. I also made elaborate dinners (a departure from my usual scrounging around in the fridge for edibles), scrubbed the house, hoed out the kids’ rooms and spent quality time with the OINKdaddy. On three Wednesdays in a row, I let Small, Medium and Large play hooky (One child at a time – I’m not totally insane!). We spent our days together doing whatever they wanted to do (snowboarding, arts and crafts and skeet ball – guess who wanted what). We had a ball and I hope they will forever remember our “Mommy Days.”

Because they weren’t just these last three Wednesdays.

“Chop, chop, chippity, chop! Cut off the bottom and cut off the top! Whatever’s left, you put in the pot!”

“Hey! Where’d my butt go?”

When was the last time you laughed so hard you couldn’t breathe? When was it that you couldn’t speak because your body was in paroxysms of G-rated pleasure? When can you recall being so full of joy nothing else in the world mattered except your own happiness?

My children are in that moment, right now.

It’s a beautiful day outside but the two of them are inside, repeating this obnoxious song ad nauseum, talking about their butts, and laughing and laughing and laughing.

They’re about 30 seconds to one minute away from someone having a meltdown but I don’t have the heart to stop their frivolity. They’ll learn all too soon that moments like these are fleeting and precious and that they should enjoy them whenever they can.

I want to laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

Maybe tomorrow? Will that work for you?

My options this morning were: 1) Go to the gym; 2) Stack firewood; 3) Clean house; 4) Have second cup of coffee while surfing the net. Guess which one I picked?

It’s day seven of the school year and the first morning I am alone. I spent the other six mornings in a whirlwind of friends and exercise and field trips (yes, they’ve already begun!), giddy and grateful that my three children were all off at school. Reveling in the long-awaited free mommy minutes, I was unprepared for the melancholy that sneaked up on me and which, even now, bleeds my joy. Adding generous helpings of spare time to my already full plate of responsibilities has been like Christmas dinner: fun to anticipate and delectable to the very last bite before the bloating begins and I realize with uncomfortable certainty that I’ve overindulged.

Our summer was of beaches and books, swimming and hiking, camps and playdates. Every moment that I was in motion, I dreamed of resting and yet, when I rested, I planned activities to keep us all in motion. In what seemed like the span between heartbeats, summer was over.

On his first day of Kindergarten, Small thumped down the stairs, more excited than nervous. He ignored the outfit I had laid out for him in favor of a generic football jersey and shorts. I said nothing, being thankful he was not wearing his favorite shirt: a navy button-down with thermal shirt-sleeves and a numbered patch on the chest. I call it the Shawshank shirt because it reminds me of prison garb. I hope it isn’t prophetic.

The house buzzed with energy emanating from the kids and surprisingly, from me. Putting out their breakfast, reminding them to wear their sneakers and not flip-flops, I fiercely told myself not to cry. I hate it when I cry. Not that there’s anything wrong with crying – it just doesn’t work for me. It probably has something to do with a repressed childhood memory but who knows? I haven’t had enough therapy to remember it.

Large went first, needing to take the early bus for middle schoolers. He burst through the storm door, cramming the last bit of an english muffin in his mouth. “HafagreatfirsdayinKinnergarden!” he called to Small over his shoulder. An hour later, the rest of us walked to the bus stop. Without looking at me, the OINKdaddy nudged my arm. I followed his gaze. Unprompted, Medium had put a reassuring hand on Small’s shoulder while we waited. This small kindness threatened the dam holding back my tears.

When I opened my eyes, the bus was roaring toward us. Brakes screeching, the yellow child compactor stopped. Small hefted his too-large backpack on his shoulders and trotted toward it without a backwards glance. The bus driver thoughtfully asked him to turn around at the top of the stairs so I could take his picture and – just like that – they were gone. My babies were gone.

I am so proud of my children. They are confident and independent and funny and loving and while they drive me to the edge of distraction (and over), more often than not, they amaze and delight me. I have been truly blessed to have had these two years at home with them. I’m not sure what the future will bring but I’m terribly glad that with this blog, I’ve kept a record of some of the special and some of the ordinary moments in our lives. Someday, I hope that Small, Medium and Large will read these words and be reminded just how much I love them.

I love watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS. It’s amazing to me what people keep in their homes. Ugly lamps, god awful vases, knick-knack-brick-a-brack…you name it and there’s someone out there collecting it. But my favorite episodes are the ones where somebody brings in a garage sale find – a painting, say – that turns out to be an emerging work of so-and-so which is now worth $100,000. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to be as lucky as the guy who paid $45 for Ansel Adams negatives worth $200 million?

My mother found a painting nestled between boxes of china and unused racquetball rackets in her garage. She knew the artist personally and so, she had kept it safe – if forgotten – for over 20 years. Deciding she was ready to part with it, she had it framed and gave it to the OINKdaddy as a Father’s Day gift. Here it is:

Van Gogh? Hell, no.

This, dear readers, is acrylic paint on generic art paper. And it’s from my high school days.

I labored over this painting like none other. The assignment was to paint a famous photograph. The photo, by Eve Arnold, showed a Mongolian girl training a horse to lie down in battle. I was taken with this photo partly because I was a horse girl through and through, but mostly because my horse had to be put down.

My father met Vernon in the driveway when he came in the backhoe to dig the hole in our pasture. It was my father, not me, who led her emphysema-wracked frame to the edge of the grave. He was there to steady her when Freddy raised the gun to shoot. It was he, not I, who held back tears in front of the men.

I was touched that my mother had kept this painting all these years. “I just remembered how you loved that horse,” she told me. “We were all so sad when it was time for her to go.”

But, now, what to do with this painting? As a piece of my history, it’s priceless. As a piece of art, it sucks. I can’t throw it away but neither can I display it.

Fifty years from now, when Small, Medium and Large are cleaning out my effects, they are going to find this thing. They’ll say: “Hey, look at this! Think it’s worth anything?” Maybe they’ll take it to the Roadshow.

The kids are playing in the basement; the decibel level is akin to a rock concert. I ask my husband to close the door and search for serenity within my fiction cocoon. I am nearly in the zone when I hear feet pounding on the stairs. Small is whining before he bursts into the kitchen. Since his father is the first parental unit he’ll encounter, I stay on the couch and do my best to ignore their conversation. I am semi-successful until I catch a sentence that concludes with “Mommy.” I am needed. Sighing, I look up from my book. Small is heading in my direction; his face tear-tracked and dirty. I sit up and put on a sympathetic expression. I reach for him, ready to whisper words of comfort and absorb all his hurt feelings, but he hurries past me with nary a glance. Throwing himself on the dog bed next to Paco (who sighs as deeply as I had), Small breathes deeply of musty dog and closes his eyes.

“Brendan?” I call. “What did you just tell Henry?”

“I told him to go snuggle with you or the dog.”

Small stops sucking his thumb long enough to give me an unsolicited one sentence explanation: “Paco cheers me up faster.”

Knowing that my child, whom I spent hours laboring to bring into this world without the benefit of pain-dulling drugs, whom I love, counsel, and care for, whose physical and psychological well-being I put before my own, whose head I have held, butt I have wiped, and knees I have kissed, whose everyday actions I chronicle in the hopes that they might, someday, promote fleeting, happy thoughts…he prefers the dog’s company over mine?

That’s just fabulous.

And the Mommy of the Year award goes to a neutered, middle-aged, red dog whose favorite hobbies are surreptitious sleeping on the furniture and overt cleaning of his ass. “He just makes me happy,” says his son.

Humble pie does not go down well. It almost always gets caught in the throat.

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