October. You sneaky bastard. One day I’m taking pictures of the boys by our favorite tree on the first day of school filled with big ideas and plans about how awesome and organized and smart and motivated and amazing the three of us are going to be this year and the next thing I know our tree looks like this:
I noticed the last week of September when we returned from our trip that the leaves were starting to turn from green to gold. It was so pretty. But before I could solidify the idea in my head that I was going to take a picture each day to capture the transformation of the tree, the leaves deepened into orange and quickly began to fall. Every day I would think, I should just take a picture now and then I’d tell myself it was too late. And then it was. The tree was almost bare and the leaves were scattered throughout the yard and the neighborhood, as the thoughts in my head.
In retrospect, perhaps taking a business trip/road-trip vacation in September on top of all the back-to-school activities and planning and executing the boys’ birthday extravaganza wasn’t the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had. But thanks to the overwhelming generosity of my family and friends, I had the opportunity to bring the boys on a trip that we otherwise would never have been able to afford, so I sort of overlooked the fact that the timing was incredibly bad and that I would probably end up completely frazzled by October.
The vacation was important for us, for me especially, to have some time together as a family that was much more “yes”-centered than “no”. I had braced myself to let a lot of things go and to indulge the boys as much as possible and go with the flow and just enjoy our time. True to form, I made this as difficult on myself as possible by trying to pack too much activity and visiting into our short week thereby raising my stress level and making myself have to work harder to just relax and roll with everything. Thankfully my amazing and wonderful and understanding friends and family helped make everything super easy for all of us. The boys got the trip of a lifetime and I was so happy that I was able to share a part of me with them. They got a glimpse into mommy’s world before they came along and got to see the hospital where they were born and meet many of the people who helped care for all of us when they were babies and it was truly priceless. And I had the opportunity to be so proud of the social and adaptable little boys they have become and watch them go from place to place and make themselves at home no matter where they were.
However, the return to routine didn’t go quite as smoothly as I had hoped. Probably because we hadn’t even really established a routine to begin with. And then October snuck on into our lives and took everything over with its gorgeous leaves and full moon and Halloween decorations everywhere. And the realities of fourth grade and homework and school work and activities set in. Now I am wondering where this last month and a half went and feel like I am living at the end of the proverbial toilet paper roll and everything is going way too fast.
Autumn is magic. A time for change and transformation. I mentally prepared myself at the end of the summer to embrace this season and all it has to offer. But does it have to happen all at once? I’m still trying to figure out how to get all my Halloween decorations up and get costumes in order while BJs has friggin’ Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper for sale. I’m not ready. Where’s the pause button?
I want to enjoy long walks with the boys through the leaves. I want to snuggle and read with them on the couch and pick pumpkins and apples and make chili and watch football. Instead I feel like we are playing catch up and by the time we catch up the snow will be flying and I’ll be wondering why I didn’t clean my yard fully of all the leaves because now I have a giant mess on my hands.
But that’s just it. Catching up is an illusion. Being “ready” is another one. It seems the change that I really need to embrace this autumn is in my mind. I have to switch from “catch up” mode to “just enjoy this day” mode. It is something that I have been wrestling with since I became a mom– the truth that I can never actually catch up. I do the dishes and the sink is filled within an hour or two. I clean and then the boys decide to do an art project. I think they have all of our homework done and then oops! someone forgot he had to study for a test. I pay my bills and my mortgage and they are waiting next month to be paid again. This is it. Every day.
Yes, there will be escapes. There will be the occasional vacation or night out with friends or day trip to the pumpkin patch. Things to break up the monotony of the day-to-day never-caught-up life of a single mom. And I need to relish those moments and not think about how I am falling further behind. It’s the journey, as they say.
So, I will pick another tree. And I will take a picture of it each day. And maybe that will help me slow down time and be in the moment instead of thinking about all that still has to get done; I will appreciate the little changes, the baby steps, the tiny transformations that happen in my life each day on the road to becoming a better mom and person.
You can’t creep by me October. I’m on to you. I’m here. Ready or not.
UPDATE: Check out #carastree on Instagram!