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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.

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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.

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