Monday, March 16, 2015

What we're Up To, Alphabet Edition

In a format that is perhaps only entertaining to me- What We're Up To, letter by letter:

A- Ants have returned with the warmer weather. The battle resumes.... Suggestions welcome.

B- Bigger and bigger! Those girls are growing- TT is sturdy and chunky, just like I was. H is almost skinny at the moment, post-growth-spurt. We think she gets it from E's mom. I never, ever imagined I would have a skinny child.

C- Roasted Carrots nom nom nom nom

E- Easter is coming. We're going to have a quiet Easter at home with our church. We'll have our friends over for a peanut-free egg hunt.

F- Fish. That's what TT is OBSESSED with- any picture of a fish in any book, no matter how small, merits attention and love. Favorites include fish bib, fish book we got her from the library, and CiCee, the beta fish we bought to feed her enjoyment.

G- Gin and tonic, our new vice.

H- H woke up dizzy this morning and threw up after breakfast. After spending the day increasingly less terrified we were all going down with the nasty stomach bug that's been going around, we discovered- a raging double ear infection. Poor kiddo.

I- Fun Fact: No one in our house irons. Our kids were amazed when our guest the other week- an MD preparing for an interview nearby- got out the iron and pressed his shirt.

J- H has been lobbying for a jump rope, after managing to jump one time over her lacing card string.

K- Auntie K is coming this week! Yay!

L- Lemon Bars. We have been making this recipe from our sweet neighbor over and over and over.

M- Mumford and Sons, followed by more Mumford and Sons. And then a little more Mumford and Sons.

N- Nashville, how I love thee. (The show, not the place.) Thankfully it will be here to sustain me after Glee ends.

O- Outside is where H will be spending two mornings a week next year in her outdoor preschool. One last year of free play before 8 hours of kindergarten every day.

P- The park, every day we can. So glad spring is here!

Q- Quiet Time. God's gift to stay-at-home moms.

R- I'm back to running regularly after a long winter break. Here's to banishing those last 5 lbs of TT weight. E's been playing racquetball on his spring break.

S- Spagetti. Both one of J's favorite foods, and also her favorite "lullaby"- "On Top of Spaghetti...."

T- Taxes. We owe some after all- ugh. At least I'm doing it myself so we don't also owe someone to tell us that.

U- My oldest *may* have worn yesterdays underwear again today. Time to do some laundry. And maybe buy some more underwear.

V- We are planning our summer vacation(s)!! E and I are planning a get-away for a few nights- we were thwarted both before H was born (pregnancy complications) and before TT was born (the world was against us.) TT is almost two and will be weaned one way or another, and we are off!! We may also go to the beach with our parents.

W- "Who's a little Mama who eats cupcakes for breakfast?" That is what four-year-old H wanted my shirt to say when she informed me my outfit was not appropriate for my birthday. (She wore a party dress for the occasion, I wore my usual jeans-and-shirt mom uniform.

X- I'm trying to convince H that she should bring her vintage xylophone for X day of show and tell at school She wants to keep her streak alive of only brining in lovies and dolls. Also, she is not at all convinced that xylophone starts with x. I told her to look in any ABC book.

Y- We are a house divided on what to do with yearbooks. We've been sorting through memorabilia boxes. E kept all seven (!) of his. I kept 3 of mine. It would have been two, but I changed schools my senior year.

Z- H learned to zip her own jacket. Added to putting on her own shoes, using the bathroom alone and brushing her own teeth, I hardly know what to do with myself here!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What I've been reading- a few notable reads

I don't even want to say how long it's been since I've posted one of these- so let's just say that I have not read all these in the past month. Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to share some of my most notable reads lately.

We Were Liars: This finally came through for me at the library, and it was fantastic timing- I binge-read it on a stressful day when I needed some serious distraction. Suspenseful and enjoyable, I didn't feel it expanded beyond it's YA genre. At first I felt betrayed by the ending, but I've come around to it. It's certainly stuck with me as an intriguing piece of work. Young love, mystery, and heartbreak.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: I fit right into this book's target demographic, with four year old and one year old daughters.  While some of the material felt like filler, I found my conversation littered with stories and facts from this book for about a week, and it certainly strengthened and clarified some of my feelings and guiding principles on dealing with this aspect of raising daughters. So much pink.

Outlander & Dragonfly in Amber: The adventure in the Scottish Highlands- and Jaime- were my favorite parts of these. The physical romance *ahem* was a little much for my taste- I'm happy to skim, but I felt the heavy-handedness detracted a bit from the story. I was hoping the second book would have more adventure and less (descriptive) romance, but I found the time spent in France to be quite slow. I haven't moved on to the subsequent novels, but I might take them to the beach. History, chivalry, and indecision.

Seabiscuit: Laura Hillenbrand was everything she is made out to be. If I had any complaint, I'd say that reading about a horse can only draw you in so much- I'm ready to read Unbroken. Quirkiness, portraiture, and horse racing.

The Age of Miracles: I'd put off reading this one- the plot line didn't catch me- but then I found it at the library. It excellently evoked a sense of impending doom, but after finishing it I'm not sure what it was leading up to. It might work as a cautionary tale of environmental abuse of the Earth. Reflection, family, and coming of age.

Invention of Wings: This was one of my favorite books I've read recently. I'm sure it was somewhat sanitized, but the fictionalized narrative was very satisfying without losing the inspiration of a real character. Strong women, strong principles, and human nature.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Community and Transience

Our two two-year stints, and our recent 18-month anniversary at our current location, mean that for the past few years we have experienced local community as transients. In our Small Town, we didn’t know how long we would be there, but in Academic Town (formerly known as Slightly Bigger Town, Slightly Less Midwest- but that’s way too long), we knew from the outset we would only be there two years. While E had several friends from work, a few of which we got to know as a family, I mostly connected- or tried to connect- with women who were there permanently. It didn’t take me long to wish I had been more evasive about our long-term plans. 

I was never totally sure how much of the reserve was on my side, and how much on theirs, but being the transient academic family trying to break into an established community was definitely not on my side. This was a really nice group of women who met twice a month for a spiritually oriented moms group, which I really, really enjoyed. By the second year we were there I was helping lead the group (mostly administrative tasks) and seeing some of the women a couple times a week through different organized activities, but I never totally felt a part of the group, and didn’t make close friendships there. Which is not to say that community was not valuable to me- they brought us meals when we had TT, they prayed for me during my antepartum depression, and the activities and acquaintanceships were a lifeline as I struggled through my pregnancy while home full-time with two year old H. But the emotional ties I have there- or lack thereof- stand in stark contrast to the ones I made in Small Town. And while there are likely a number of factors going on, I can’t help but think a major one was that we all knew my family would be leaving.

That was one of our experiences, but transient community is not always doomed- far from it. (If that were true, college would be so boring!) It does require greater commitment to have the full experience of friendship and community in those circumstances. We had an acquaintance in Small Town who was there for her husband's residency, who was one of the earliest and most active members in our church and community. She talked about the difficult time she had while he as in medical school, as they were far from their hometown for the first time, and how she spend the four years moping and waiting to be finished. Fortunately, by the end of four years she realized she couldn’t go on like that- and she could control her situation by being proactive in participating in their community and making friends in their next location. And wow, did they ever.  They hosted and hosted, were friendly and made friends, and everyone was sad when it was time for them to go. Of course, sometimes living in an academic town or transient area means you get burnt out from so many people moving away, and have to step back or pick and choose among those kind of relationships. That hasn't been our experience yet, but I imagine it will be some day- and I do respect that.

In addition to greater commitment, I’ve found transient community is eased when it’s mutual- that's why college is so non-problematic. You don’t have to only make friends with those whose arrival and departure dates only coincide with your own, but I’ve found- from both sides!- that people who are only here for a time are much more forgiving of others' plans to move on. Additionally, of course, people who are new to an area are looking for friends and connections- a fact I’ve shamelessly exploited, time and time again. When we first moved here to the Slight South, I was on the constant lookout for others who were new to the area and might be looking to make friends.

Of course, there is a benefit to passing through- you don’t have to choose your friends too carefully, knowing you will be moving on and can use that as a natural endpoint if needed. Fortunately, we haven’t had too many experiences where we took advantage of that, but it’s true that when I know we are planning to move again soon, I tend to be content with quantity over quality. Fortunately,  this is a dynamic we will be experiencing a little less, now that we are here in the Slight South for a least a few more years. However, living in an academic town means there will always be a high percentage of transient people looking for community. I hope we show them the compassion and investment we were looking for as we moved frequently over the past few years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Worth Mending

Sewing a button that had come off on my apron today, I noticed it looked as though it had been mended before. This apron- one of three in our house, and by far the sturdiest (the others having come from the dollar store and Tanzania), was inherited by me at some point from E's beloved grandmother. She looms large and loved in E's family memories, and was in many ways the center of his extended family. She passed away before we were engaged. While I met her- probably on several occasions- I know her by far the best through Steve and his Pop, who survived his wife by over 7 years. We have several things of hers- some costume jewelry I took mostly to share with our then-potential, now-flesh-and-blood daughters, a cedar chest I adore, and a gorgeous mirror and tray set. I felt a matriarchal connection tonight thinking how she had taken on this same little task, probably in the last third of her life, with likely far less existential thoughts. I hope I leave behind things worth mending; I wonder what they will be and who will be taking on that task.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Growing Girls

Sunlight stream falls on Saturday dining table.
Former baby carefully balancing spoon full of milk and cereal
Precarious trip from bowl to mouth.
Former toddler intent on tray of pink LEGO
Triumphantly pouring over pictorial directions.
Suddenly, I eat in peace, if not quiet.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Community: Not just friends

In Small Town, Midwest we (eventually) found ourselves at a wonderful church plant- just big enough to feel like a church, just small enough you could conceivably know everyone. We liked the service, but we were sold when the pastor welcomed us, chatted about our church background, and recommended several other churches we might check out if we wanted to look around more.

To be honest, the members were so friendly we were actually a little put off- someone invited us to lunch our first day there, and we turned them down. (Midwestern hospitality- it's a thing. We weren't ready yet.) Soon after, another couple with three young kids invited us to get together, and I was a little unsettled when I realized they had actually gotten a babysitter- for the first time ever- just to meet us for coffee one evening. Once we realized they were in fact normal (for the midwest) and just being friendly, we really grew to like that community. That lovely family that got a babysitter were our best friends there! (Fun fact: I'm eternally grateful my first "mom friend" was on her third child and not her first.) Now that we have young kids ourselves and know their situation a little better, it all makes perfect sense.

Since we left the area about 18 months after we found that church (during which we had a difficult pregnancy and new baby), we didn't ever get to know everyone in the church- but we joined a small group and were varying levels of close with several other families. We did play dates and met downtown and exchanged advice and gave recommendations and had dinner and prayed- together and for one another. A picture taken at our last meeting shows rumpled parents and children either wild-eyed and crazy or sleepy and fussy, and we kept it on our fridge for two years.

We were so sad to move away from that community, and we never found one like it in our next location. Even though we had almost the same number of close friends there, they didn't know each other- and so it didn't have the same sense of community. Recommendations didn't trickle back in when word got around that you were looking for a good place to take your parents for dinner. You didn't hear that someone's baby was sick and that's why they weren't there this week. We had a "small group" with one other couple, but if one of us was traveling- which happened frequently- that was it, there was no meeting. There were no group dynamics.

I think maybe we were meant to live in small towns*, and the isolation modern life isn't as healthy for us. Whether or not that sense of community is a universal desire, it has always been precious to me, ever since my first strong group of friends in high school.

 *(I will say I found actual small town life very difficult. Breaking into a close community is a whole other post!)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

31 days of Community

Whenever we move, people love to ask how we like our new location. I never like it. A new place always has plenty of warts sitting on the tip of its nose, but you have to know it a while to appreciate its sly sense of humor, its humble service, or its belly laugh (or, if you always move in August, its mild winter.) But the main reason I never like our new location is we have never moved into a ready-made community. We had a great one in our Hometown, we found a great one in Small Town, Midwest, and we struggled to have one in Slightly Bigger Town, Slightly Less Midwest.  (How did I never name that location before? Those were two hard years.) I showed up here in the Slight South last year ready to craft a community for our family from sheer will and the skin on my teeth. I have heard of mythical people move to a place where they have family, or friends, or a branch of their church, or whatnot- but that's never been us. I don't know that I recommend our method.

However, all that moving has allowed me many moments to reflect on community, the different types we've had (and wanted), how to cultivate it, and why it matters. Hopefully enough moments to make it through (about) 31 days of discussion! (OK, really I'll be happy with 15- we'll see!)