Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Broken

It's spring break for various schools over here, but you wouldn't know it from all the snow. We were in shorts and t-shirts last week, followed by a Friday snow storm. All the snow was gone by Sunday afternoon, so it was back to shorts on Monday, and then a blizzard on Tuesday. I'd say we accumulated at least 8 inches in less than 24 hours, with more to come this afternoon. But the temperature is lovely, and if we can manage it I'd like to be out building snowmen this afternoon.

It hardly feels spring-like inside our house, either, as our family has succumbed to a particularly bothersome bug: hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Or foot-and-mouth disease. Or something. The kids have taken turns with fever and now Anna has horrid sores all over her mouth and spots on her feet. Isaac may have sores too, but I can't see into that little mouth. He's certainly fussy, though. Apparently this is something you only get once, so I suppose that's a plus. Meanwhile, I have something that's wiping me out which is why the breakfast dishes lay untouched on the counter and the bathrooms will not be cleaned today.
It may be I'm simply wiped out emotionally, as the illness thing continues to get old. It practically has white hair and a beard by now. Not that this is any different from any other winter, but I had hoped that at least Anna would have developed an immune system by now.

Despite the illnesses, we continue to sprinkle in fun here and there. Isaac's been to the pool twice now, and both times he's spent a good portion in a floaty thing looking dazed and confused. Once he gets into it, though, it's splash-city. Unlike Anna he is less bothered by water in the face. This has proven useful when I wash his hair.

Sunday found me with my lovely female in-laws, cooking up a storm using Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Beef Bourguignon and Chocolate Bavarian Cream were my personal favorites. However, I think the green beans and potatoes would have been better with about a tenth of the butter.  I greatly enjoy cooking, and it's so fun to do with others. It's one thing to have a dinner party where you do all the cooking, or a potluck where everyone cooks at home and brings the food together. It's a completely different experience to cook all together, everyone bringing their own talents and (in my case) quirks to the process. Some of my best graduate school memories are of cooking together with other students. If you've never done this, I highly recommend it.

Another highlight of the last month was watching Isaac master walking. Such a different process than his sister: Anna took a few steps and gradually improved until I woke up one morning and realized she was running. With Little Man, you can almost see the switches turn on in his brain. I know the exact moments he went from on tentative step, to four steps, to walking halfway across a room, to (now) walking across the house. I wonder if the same step-wise advancement will happen with talking.

Time to tackle those dishes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Big Community

Jon and I have begun watching episodes of Big Love. If you are not familiar with this HBO series, it is a drama centered around a suburban family. A polygamous family.

When I first heard about this series I was less than interested. I was skeptical of the basic premise: three (more-or-less) modern women voluntarily entering a polygamist relationship? Yah, right. But then I heard an interview with Bill Paxton (alpha male), and the show sounded intriguing. So onto the queue it went.
And the show is intriguing. We're midway into season 2, and I'm beginning to see how this polygamous thing could seem appealing at first.
[disclaimer: I am not advocating polygamy in any way, shape, or form for any and all reasons you can think of. To its credit, the show neatly illustrates why you'd have to believe this was a spiritual calling to enter into such a relationship(s). They portray downsides I hadn't even thought of.]

To get straight to the point, what's appealing is living in community. Not just a get-together-once-a-week community, or an our-kids-play-together community, or even friends that chat on the phone daily, but an acutely proximal community. A community where you live. Right where you live. Imagine having another friend or two that's always around to lend a hand or an ear; dropping into the house next door (without having to call first); having someone around to watch the kids if you need to run an errand; etc. Obviously you don't have to be polygamist to be good friends with your neighbor and feel comfortable with your kids running into each others houses at all hours and/or just dropping in to talk yourself. But it would seem to facilitate this communal freedom.

I've been thinking about community a lot since it occurred to me that I'm lonely. Don't get me wrong. I have friends, near and far, and I appreciate each one of you. But the longest I've ever lived in one place is 7 years, and we've moved twice since then. What I'm missing is those deep friendships that come from staying in one place for a significant amount of time and having a shared history with people. The saddest thing about this is that I'm hardly alone. We're such a mobile society, and although part of this is necessary (good colleges or jobs may be far away), an unintended consequence is the loss of a shared narrative and support structure. Loneliness is only one of the consequences - there are many others. I'm sure you can think of a few.

In lieu of living by The Principle, I hope to stay in one place for a long time. I don't expect, or need a proximal community (maybe it's not even as nice as I imagine), but I would like that deep friendship I've been missing. And I really want the same for my kids.

What about you? Have you reached Leave it to Beaver nirvana? How? Do you even want to?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Comings and Goings

It's a cool and cloudy Monday. A reminder that it's still winter despite last week's sunshine. I was glad that my dad got to enjoy a bit of that spring feeling, since he was visiting last week. He came partly because he's unable to join my mom on her Easter visit, and partly to babysit while Jon was away. By "babysit" I mean babysit all of us. I'm still a wimp when it comes to single parenting during Jon's trips. Luckily, these trips have been infrequent of late. And to be fair, this was a long stint: Monday-Friday. With my days beginning at 6 and bed times at 8:30.... well, that's a long time to be without reinforcements.
So my dad took pity and came down to play. And play we did! I tried to pack in all the fun things we never do during a typical week. We went to Jungle Quest one day, and the zoo the next day.

Dad even took Anna on the "circle of fun": they go on a walk to a great local playground, lunch at McDonald's, ice cream at Sonic, and pass by another park on the way home. Jon's parents came with dinner one evening, and the rest of the time was filled with home improvement projects that we save up for dad's visits. My father is a very handy guy. Among other things, he worked on Isaac's drop-side crib such that it's now a never-again-drop-side crib. Mommy now sleeps better at night.

We were all sad when Grandpa left, but happy to see Daddy come home. Isaac celebrated by suddenly becoming a full-fledged walker. At 6:00 p.m. on Friday a light went on in his fuzzy head and he started taking steps in groups of five rather than one. He's quite satisfied with himself. Meanwhile I desire to put a little helmet on his head. So far, no concussion-inducing falls but I know they're on their way. I am always amazed that children survive this stage without permanent brain damage. Then again, maybe they all have brain damage and we just don't notice because they all have it.

So while we humans survived Jon's absence with aplomb, our TV receiver decided to throw a fit and die. My attempts to reset and revive came to nothing, and the conversation with the help desk was unsuccessful on many levels:
Me: I've tried resetting the box, but it does nothing. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Is it plugged in?
Me: Yes. It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try resetting the power strip.
Me: Hello? It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try plugging it into a different power strip.
Me: Okay, but I don't think you understand. It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try plugging it in somewhere else. 
Me: Uh, okay. But I feel I must tell you that it's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
etc. etc.

So we should be receiving a new box soon, although it was too late for yesterday's Academy Award ceremonies. I've watched at least part of every show for over 20 years, until yesterday. Apparently I didn't miss much, but it's the principle of the thing. It's my only must-watch-television-event, and it has to be watched live.
At least Avatar didn't win best picture. Jon (and David Brooks) noted the similarity between Avatar and the horrid Fern Gully. Yes, this plot has been recycled more than once, but the similarity between these two particular movies is striking. And very very sad. If you're going to spend that much money on a movie, shouldn't some of it go to writing plot and dialogue? Just sayin'.