It’s almost over. Finally. My busiest month of the year.

Just 4 more days to plow through.

And then October.

Pumpkin patches, hayrides, Halloween, crisp nights, cider…

More of the fall things we’ve started doing in September, perhaps a little prematurely.

Like boots and cardigans and pumpkin spice lattes.

September has been crazy. Some of it was fun. Some of it was hellish. You figure out which was which: DC work trip, the start of pre-K, the start of soccer, a trip to the aquarium, a baby shower, more trips to Target than we should have made, walks to the park, a day trip to the Grounds for Sculpture, crafting, Photobooth selfies, and much more.

Wait a sec, not much of that sounds terrible, does it?

But still… really looking forward to October.

woman bathingThis past weekend was really great. The husband was away, so Jax and I had a mommy-and-me weekend filled with fun activities. The highlight of the weekend was the Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Grounds for Sculpture (in Hamilton, NJ). My mom, my sister, Jax, and I took the 40-minute drive to explore the grounds briefly before the tea party. I wish we’d penciled in a bit more time to explore before our 4:00 reservation, because my mom thinks we saw only an eighth of the grounds–and I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I need to go back as soon as possible, and I hear the time to do it on a winter’s evening when the trees are lit by twinkling white lights.

According to the website:

Grounds For Sculpture is a 42-acre public sculpture park located in Hamilton, NJ. It was founded in 1992 on the site of the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds by J. Seward Johnson to promote an understanding of and appreciation for contemporary sculpture for all people.

Jax apparently LOVES sculpture, just like his momma. I can’t think of a better way to encounter sculpture than this–you’re walking through what feels like a forest and can just barely make out a woman bathing at the far end of a misty pond. You get a little closer and see how beautiful she is. And then you realize she isn’t moving. She’s the product of some artist’s imagination and devotion to his or her craft.

Alas, we had to hurry off to the tea party and didn’t make it back to the woods to see the rest. But we will!

We entered the Acer Courtyard, with tall skinny trees strung with paper lanterns and several large sculptures, and were seated by one of the characters–Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and the Queen of Hearts (or the Red Queen) were present.

red queenmad hatteraliceAt each place setting at our table for four was a small bottle of liquid, a paper sign tied to it that said “Drink me.” So we did. (It was lemonade. And no, we didn’t shrink.)

drink meOur waitress brought out the tea we selected from a fairly long list; this was Mighty Leaf tea served in a white tea pot for each of us. I chose Ginger Twist, and it was fabulous. Jax had Chamomile Citrus, as did his Nana. My sister had Oolong Orchid. We were then served scones and jam. Jax didn’t like them, even though I’d referred to them as cookies.

Jax at the tea partyHe ran around the courtyard with another little boy, touching the sculptures they were allowed to touch (these were indicated by a little green sign, whereas those not to be touched had a red sign) and splashing in the fountain.

We had tea sandwiches next: cucumber and cream cheese on white, chicken salad and raisins on whole grain, and egg salad on pumpernickel swirl. And then dessert: strawberry mousse tarts, two varieties of brownies, and sugar cookies.

dessertIt was fancy and delicate, simple but gorgeous. The characters visited each table briefly; they were a little strange, but then again so is Alice in Wonderland itself, as well as the entire Grounds for Sculpture. I mean, how else would you define a place that put a room-size glass cube full of doll parts in the middle of the woods:

dolls in the woods

For more information, check out the Grounds for Sculpture’s website.

 

Yesterday was the first day of pre-K for Jax, and it went well–way better than I expected. He seemed a little nervous, but in that way only a mother can see. He didn’t cry or ask to not go. He stood in line with his classmates as everyone figured out where to go and waited for the day to begin, and I welled up with tears I tried to hide from him (and everyone else).

firstday

Two hours later, I picked him up and we walked home for a brief layover before he went to daycare and I went to work. I’d taken a half day so I could see him off in the morning and also pick him up when school let out. He told me he made a friend and that he would have made more but he couldn’t remember the other kids’ names! He was excited about his teacher, whom we’ll call Miss R on the blog, because she’d given each student a baggie of candy along with a cute poem about the first day of class and a juice box. On the very first day of school, his teacher already taught me an important lesson–Candy makes everything more bearable!

candybag

On the way to daycare, where he moved into the 4-year-old room earlier this week (we’ll call that teacher Miss M), he told me how much he doesn’t like his new room and how his bestie there isn’t coping well with the change either. Yet he went without too much fuss.

Today was a different story, though. Today was the first full day of pre-K (which is really only 3 hours) and my first day of spending my hour lunchbreak commuting to the school to pick him up and drive him over to the daycare in the next town (where he’s been going since before he turned 2) and then myself back to work. Until now, I’ve been spending my lunchbreaks–pretty much my only free time–by taking walks with my friends. Granting myself daily time for fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and socializing has been so good for my mental well-being. But now that Jax is in a half-day pre-K program, my only option is to give up my lunchbreaks in order to drive him from pre-K to daycare. Fortunately, I work 10-15 minutes away, so I assumed I could accomplish the pick-up and drop-off and get back to work within an hour, and I tested that hypothesist today.

The commute part of the hour went really well. It turns out that I’ll have 15 minutes to walk at the park nearby while I wait for Jax to be let out of school, as long as I don’t hit any weird traffic between work and school.

The pick up went well, too. Jax was happy to see me, and even happier when our neighbor, also in pre-K but in a different class, gave him a kiss when she saw him–his second one from her today!

The drop-off at daycare today didn’t go well at all. In fact, it went so NOT well that two teachers had to assist so I could escape from his clingy clutches and get back to work on time. The focus of the brief time we were together at daycare turned from a pleasant hello in the middle of the day into an attempt to escape as quickly as possible without risking damage to my outfit. I didn’t get to say goodbye with a kiss like always. When I turned back at the door to peek at him, he had his arm strewn across the lunch table, his head down on top of it.

It was pretty sad.

Someone please tell me it’s not going to be like this every school day until he starts full-day kindergarten? He’ll soon adjust to our weird new routine, right?

 

Life is good, but it’s busier than ever. I haven’t had ANY time at all for posting here, which is eating me up inside. I miss oversharing! This is a quick post to tell you I’m still here, still thinking of the blog and of its readers, trying to figure out how to achieve a better work-life balance (aren’t we all?).

A quick recap of what has been on my mind (and my plate) lately:

Shore vacation! We spent a week at the Jersey Shore with my family. It was relaxing and peaceful and exactly what I needed. However, I worked very hard leading up to the vacation to ensure I wouldn’t be swamped with work when I returned–but here I am, up to my neck in articles to edit and proofread, backed up against seemingly impossible deadlines. Sigh. Looking at pictures sort of helps me recall how enjoyable the week was:

Don't I look relaxed? (That's my husband and Jax in the background, flying a kite on the beach.)

Don’t I look relaxed? (That’s my husband and Jax in the background, flying a kite on the beach.)

view

This is the view from one of the balconies at the shore house. Very peaceful.

Postvacation has been a blur of kiddie birthday parties, bringing work home, refinancing the house, spending as much time as possible with my bestie (who visited from Florida), and more. I guess you could call it a typical summer, full of plans and lacking time for things like blogging!

In my very minimal spare time (read: the time I could be using for blogging), I’ve been reading a lot. I read Little Earthquakes just before vacation. I didn’t love it, to be honest. Then I finished The Interestings on vacation. I highly recommend that novel, which I couldn’t put down and is typical of my favorite style. Then I read The Silent Wife, which was just OK. It’s been compared to Gone Girl (but so many have, these days), but I didn’t love it how I loved Gone Girl. It just…lacked something. Now I’m reading Sisterland. So far, so good but we’ll see. Up next might be Sharp Objects, but I’m open to recommendations if you’ve got ‘em!

Also up next? My 36th birthday on the 14th, and Jax turns 4 on the 15th. (As I typed this, “Landslide” randomly came on my iPod and now I want to cry! “Even children get older. I’m getting older, too.” SOB, SOB, SOB.) I’ve been party planning (for him, not me). We’re considering buying Jax his first “big-boy bike” as his big gift. Very exciting! Also exciting is that I just signed him up for soccer in the fall. His two best buddies are playing for the same town, so we’re hoping they manage to be assigned to the same team. Think good thoughts!

I also signed him up for Pre-K at our local elementary school. That was emotional–how is he already old enough for school?! Now we wait to find out whether he gets the morning session or the afternoon session. If he gets the morning session, I’ll be giving up my lunch breaks (which is when I take walks with my friends) to pick him up from school and take him to daycare for the afternoon. It’s going to be rough and it was a tough decision to register him, but it will make the Kindergarten transition easier and will be good for him in many ways. If he is assigned the afternoon session, we will likely opt against Pre-K and keep him full time in daycare, as the commute and after-school care is a big issue for us. So also think good thoughts for the morning session for us! :)

I guess you’re all caught up now on most of the goings-on in my little world. I hope to return to blogging (and reading blogs) regularly very soon!

boardwalk game

Jax loves to play boardwalk games!

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I can increase my family’s spending money for more flexibility to do all the fun things summer throws at us. Yes, we are feeling the sting of summer—you know, when you try to do ALL THE THINGS but without all the money? We’re getting ready for a beach vacation, and it would be nice to have a little wiggle room after paying the next round of bills, you know? Especially given how much Jax loves boardwalk arcades and rides!

I’ve also been wondering how to better declutter my home. I spent 47.5 hours without leaving my house this weekend (yes, I counted every painful hour), due to a sudden stomach virus. It gave me many hours to lay on the couch staring at piles of books not on shelves, dust bunnies, and toys underneath the tv stand—things that make my brain hurt.

Then it hit me—I should have a yard sale! I live on a corner that gets a fair amount of foot and vehicular traffic, as it’s not fair from two of the town’s main roads. But then another thought hit me—this summer’s weather has been really unpredictable, so it might not work out to schedule a yard sale with all the rain and extreme heat we’ve been having. Plus, yard sales seem like a ton of hard work! So, I’m placing that idea on the backburner until fall, when I’m less busy and it’s less hot and rainy outside.

So my goal for right now is to consider selling some things online, which I’ve never done before but I think it looks easy enough to do. My house is cluttered with DVDs, books, and CDs we rarely pick up anymore, thanks to Netflix, On Demand, Kindle, and the iPad. I could sell the CDs and DVDs online and stash the cash for vacation!

Brainstorming other things I could do to generate a few dollars, it occurred to me to stalk my friend Amiyrah’s blog, Four Hats and Frugal, for some tips on saving money. I’ve been a subscriber for years, but I haven’t given much attention to her finance-related posts until now.

What are some of the ways you finance your family’s summer?