I’m not particularly loving this stage of my life.  I hate typing that, because I know damn well that once I admit it, it’s going to get worse.  But the past few months have been especially challenging for me, and I’m struggling.  I’m not working, I’m not at home, I’m certainly not writing as much as I’d like.  What I’m doing is driving.  All day.  I drive all the kids to different schools, I drive Marc to work.  I pick them all up, and deliver them to different after-school activities.  I pick Marc up from work, feed the kids late, fish clean clothes out of the dryer (if I’m lucky) and then do it all again the next day.  It doesn’t feel like there’s any time to do anything.   Sometimes it feels as though I’m failing all over the place, the house is a disaster, my parenting is reduced to hollering at the kids to stop fighting in the backseat and I fantasize about a killer snowstorm that cancels everything and forces us to stay home and just… breathe.   I’m not accomplishing anything – I’m just racking up the miles.

I know it’s temporary.  I know it’s a byproduct of Marc working two jobs, and it’ll get easier in a few weeks.  I know that there isn’t anything I could cut out to make the schedule better.  I know that in order to make it better, I have to change my own attitude towards it.  Embrace the car, if you will.  Find little moments of peace and quiet indulgence, turn the music up louder and take the scenic route instead of the highway.

A lesson I learned a long time ago is that when things get really challenging – make a gratitude list.  So here’s the list of reasons why I especially appreciate this stage – even when it’s incredibly challenging.

– Jessica Mary is closer to twelve than eleven, and while I was dreading the onset of puberty, I’m delighted to discover that it’s kind of awesome.  She’s changing so fast, and it’s beautiful.  She’s beautiful.  She’s smart, and funny and perceptive and eager to discover everything she can.  She’s independent and determined, focused and driven.  She’s right on the cusp of everything.  It’s all new and watching her grow and become who she’s going to be is one of my favorite parts of this stage.

– Sam is just such a happy kid these days.  It’s not just that he’s happy in school, has a lot of friends and really enjoys going.  He’s just generally happy.   Everything seems easy with him these days, there are the normal “Dude, you HAVE to calm down before I lose my mind…” moments, and sometimes he goes out of his way to bug the hell out of his sisters, but for the most part, he’s all the way good.

– My Julie is still little enough to be my baby, but so big in all other respects.  We’ve conquered the bedtime battles, and settled into a routine that works well.  She’s very happy going to preschool two days a week, her hair is almost down to her waist and she’s got the cutest little habit, before she falls asleep, of kissing and kissing and kissing me.  I showed her butterfly kisses the other day, and she giggles every time.

– Marc and I are still… us.  We’re coming up on our thirteen year anniversary next year, and he’s still my best friend, my other half.  My partner.  Even now, when our time together is so incredibly limited, and we’re both rushing around all the time – he’s still the one I want to talk to the most.

– My car radio is… quirky.  It works, but sometimes it’ll assume command and won’t let us change the radio station or skip songs on a CD.  So we leave it on the sports radio station because if we change the station, we may not be able to get it back  and Marc requires access to the Patriots games at all times (and I’m only slightly bitter about that).  I listen to CDs all the time.   I’m slowly rebuilding a CD collection, by “borrowing” them from my mother, or buying them at Savers.  I’ve got the kids rocking out to music that I grew up with, and Julianna singing Carole King, or Sammy doing the drums to Old Time Rock and Roll, and Jessie belting out “All American Girl” by Melissa Etheridge – it’s awesome.

– The leaves are gorgeous.  You can’t beat the fall in New England, it’s the prettiest time of the year to be bopping all over the place in the car.  I get to see way more foliage than I would on a normal year, simply because I’m in the car driving around all the time.

Perspective matters, and while it’s true that this is an especially challenging time in my life, it’s still a time that I think I’ll look back on and miss.  Parts of it anyway.  I won’t miss sitting in a grubby car (why, why is it always dirty???), wading through traffic or watching my gas gauge creep ever closer to empty (I filled it yesterday and am already down a quarter of a tank).  But I will miss the days when my kids were still at home, where I was still intimately aware of everything that happens in their day, and when Marc and I were jamming quality time into the twenty minute drive back and forth from Home Depot.

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