Sunday, December 23, 2012

Roller Coasters

The 6 a.m. shout out is always hard to recover from. But now that Isaac is back to sleep (?!!) I can steal some moments away and reflect on the autumn that was. I've been trying to think of a theme to tie the last few months together, and roller coasters seem appropriate. Here's why:

(1) Anna. Our trip to California this fall was FANTASTIC. As readers (or even casual observers) know, the logistics of this trip were stressing me out. Stress is nothing if not motivating, and I'm happy to say that all my planning paid off. We visited Disneyland for two days, Legoland for one day (thanks to the generosity of my sister-in-law; that place is expensive), and the beach and family on in-between days.

I love Disneyland. It still feels magical to me, and I like that it hasn't changed a bit since I was there almost two decades ago. Almost. The park was all decked out for the holidays, and rides like It's a Small World and the Haunted Mansion were appropriately attired. Very nice.
What surprised me about Anna's experience was that she preferred the roller coasters to the princess experiences. She went on every roller coaster in D.L. and Legoland, barely meeting the height requirements for some. True, we did stand in line for 45 minutes to meet Aurora and Snow White, but it wasn't the focal point.
*sniff* My girl is growing up!

What I learned from Isaac is that three is just too young. My car loving boy hated Autopia (a tough pill for mommy to swallow after standing in line 45 minutes), and refused to go on any rides involving "tunnels." This latter attitude was my fault. I took him on Snow White's Scary Adventure, and he screamed the whole way through (at least it added to the ambiance). He liked a few things, like Astro Blasters (riding in circles in the sky) and the Goofy Go-Coaster (pre-school sized roller coaster) and Toon Town (mostly free play). But Legoland was really his game. Both kids had a great time there, and there were more rides suited to his age. He just about had an aneurysm when he saw the Star Wars section - all the major movie scenes built out of Legos. He couldn't even speak.

(2) Holidays and Hurricanes. Our fun alternated with some less thrilling adventures. Hurricane Sandy, for example. Luckily, our corner of Maryland escaped the brunt of the storm, so we were only out of power for less than a day. Not knowing this ahead of time, our pre-storm preparations assumed the worst. Since this was our first hurricane, preparations took a lot of forethought and planning. Read: major time suck. They also closed the schools for a few days, so entertaining kiddos became a challenge as well. They sure enjoyed having the power out, I have to say. It was a real adventure.

Halloween, shortly after, was great. People really do it up around here. Many sit outside their homes in costume to give out candy, giving a community feel to the event. Anna (Pink Panther) and Isaac (Darth Vader) stayed out collecting candy for about 1.5 hours. They could have gone longer, but Jon (and then I) became chilly.

Thanksgiving weekend alternated between visiting with friends old and new, and recovering from the California vacation. And then December came with it's own oscillations. There is always the joy of decorating and baking and wrapping presents and watching those classic Christmas specials. Anna and I even strung a few lines of popcorn. But this year there have been some low points, too. For example, the viruses are all brand new and have been hitting us hard. This past week we couldn't get Anna's asthma under control, and ended up in the ER. She's on an inhaled steroid now, and will be as long as we live here.
As Dickens says, this is also the time of year when "want is felt most keenly." Our "want" is the familiarity of family and friends. Not a day goes by when the kids don't ask for their old home and/or family and/or friends. Happily, Jon's parents will arrive on Christmas Day and stay with us for awhile. That will be a great present.

(3) Stay or go? This is the question occupying the background of our thoughts. Now that the busy autumn is behind us, the shock of actually being here has settled in, bringing with it the tension of uncertainty. I do not doubt that we should be here, and my devotions constantly remind me that the future is in the hands of God and I do not need to worry about it. And I'm not worried, really. It's more.... unsettled-ness. I'd like to know where we stand. And I'm spending entirely too much energy neither liking Maryland too much (lest we leave) nor too little (lest we stay). What I actually need to do is take each day as it comes and learn to lean on Him. This is an opportunity to be reminded about where my strength actually comes from. Where it needs to come from. "Rejoicing in weakness" is not a Christian cliche (despite the frequency with which this term can be thrown around), but an opportunity I don't want to miss.

So there is a small snap shot of our autumn. The sun is now up, and it's Jon's birthday! I shall head upstairs to make French toast, grab some more coffee, and check everyone's eyes. (Pink eye broke out during Anna's Christmas party, which Isaac and I also attended. There was a brief period yesterday evening when Jon noticed my eyes were quite red. Turned out they were just very tired.)

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Raw nerve seeking astrocyte

1) I am over-caffeinated. Curse you, pumpkin spice coffee.

2) I'm trying to save my latest Jasper Fforde novel until our November vacation. It's so rare that I find a book I like, that I want to be in a relaxed frame of mind while I read it. Reading in 5 minute, half asleep, chunks before bed doesn't seem right.

3) It took me eight seasons to realize that House was just a medical version of Sherlock Holmes. The incredible, recent BBC version of the latter is also over (for now). We also finished Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Universe, and Downton Abbey. I was sad until I discovered Once. The idea of it is sufficiently interesting that I'm willing to overlook the sometimes stilted acting, often awkward dialogue, and consistently bad CG.

4) Looking at 2 and 3 above, it appears I only like mysteries, science fiction, and nursery crime, with occasional dalliances into period drama. Fine.

5) I still do not hate Maryland. This is surprising given the following in and around our house: invasive stink bugs, wandering marbled orbweaver spiders, cicada killers, speedy foot long earth worms, lightning fast spider crickets, and the horror-which-shall-not-be-named which has a million legs, is at least 2 inches long, eats other bugs, and whose name I truly can't remember.

6) Anna hasn't made any good friends at school, and I don't know why. It's also becoming apparent that she is a strong auditory learner (her memory blows me away), and I don't think schools are set up for that. She will be a slow to average reader, I think. At the same time, her spatial skills are superb. I suspect the school I picked out for her in CO would have been a much better fit. But thinking about that is useless and makes me sad.

7) I am wicked lonely. So, I'm thinking again about joining Twitter. It's the next best thing to friends!

8) My mom and brother are traveling in Turkey. My mom has never been outside of Canada/US before, so I feel this is a big deal. I am thrilled for them. I am also wondering if they will try Turkish delight and whether the Turkish people actually call them Turkish delights. Or just delights.

9) Isaac remembers names, recognizes letters, and knows their sounds. I think he will be an early reader. Take that, gender-predicted differences in learning!

10) Meeting people at our church has been a glacial process. Once again, I have to congratulate our former church on their integrative skills, which of course I didn't fully appreciate at the time.

11) Is there anything more dangerous than judging the Jedi Master Competition in your three year old's small bedroom whilst two children bandy about with their light sabers? No, there is not.

12) The autumn foliage has been spectacular. I'm told this is not usual. This makes me thankful that we can enjoy it this year.

13) Of all the people I've talked to, only four were not born and raised in this area. I've never lived anywhere like that before. Is this why I have the sense that we're looked upon with a bit (a tiny tiny bit) of... suspicion is too strong a word. Maybe, uncertainty? On a related note, the only people that have made efforts to get to know us are not from this area (see first sentence). This has made it easy for me to get in touch my internal hermit (she says "hello!")

14) We are deciding whether to continue to pour money into our car(s) or sell one and get a minivan. We can't really afford a minivan, but I hate throwing good money after bad. And if we don't end up staying here, I'd like to sell both cars before we move to wherever it is that we'll land next. So yah, it would be nice to know what's going to happen next.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Miraculous in the Common

Reading my devotional this morning I was reminded to be thankful, even when things are not working out as planned. Timely, given that this weekend is Thanksgiving (in Canada, that is).
In honour of the holiday, here's my latest Thankful list. In honour of the holiday locale, I will use a "u" wherever possible.

(1) Apples. We've gone picking numerous times this season, and don't seem to tire of it. Apples, banal as they seem, are one of my favourite fruits. So many varieties, so much versatility. Raw or cooked. Sauteed or baked. Dessert or dinner. Fresh off the tree, one realizes how delicious and unique they can be. Sorry Colorado, but your apples all tasted the same. So far, we've made applesauce, apple butter, apple pie, apple cobbler, apple crisp, pork with sauteed apples, and soon caramel apples. Cyanide doesn't scare us.

(2) Internet. As a child, we went on numerous amazing road trips. Today, I can't find the grocery store without Google maps. Mom, how did you do it? I am in the midst of planning our California trip and I am just so thankful for the immediate information I can access on the web. Not to mention the child sized nose clips I can easily find and order for Anna. And the recipes for fennel and patty pan squash and other fun veggies the kids (and I... mostly I) pick out at the produce stand. As I reread this, I see themes of "ease" and "immediate." So maybe I'm just basking in my laziness. I can live with that.

(3) Autumn. Who doesn't like autumn? People with allergies, I guess. But other than that, who doesn't like autumn? I'm told that October is when the leaves start to change here, and sure enough there are bits of red and orange starting to peek out from the oceans of green. And there is still so much green that these warm colours seem translucent and otherworldly in their singularity.
I am relieved since I didn't know what to expect. In September, some trees just dried up and dropped their brown litter, and what is the point of Maryland's crap summer if one can't at least have a nice fall? I'm hopeful that crisp days will soon be here, as well. [Crisp = cool and not humid. Jon says not to hold my breath.]

(4) Employment. I'm going to state the obvious here. The "greater purpose" to our Md move might be that Jon has a job. I'm unsure how to express this, but I've been hoping that there was some deeper meaning to the uprooting we've endured. I can't even verbalize what that thing is, or what would make it deep. Something social, maybe? Perhaps something about the kid's education? Just an obvious answer to why we're in Md, and if you please, make it something profound. But with widespread unemployment and underemployment, I realized how thankful I am simply that Jon is employed. That needs to be reason enough to be content here.

(5) Washing machines. People, I keep coming back to this because I don't think I can say it enough.
Dirty clothes go in, clean clothes come out. This. Is. Magic. Right in your own home!

(6) Mum. Mum just returned home, after blessing us with 10 days of her presence. We didn't do anything in particular, partly because I'm still unfamiliar with the area and partly because of ill children (when will the viruses stop? Seriously.) Mostly we just explored some local parks, picked apples, baked, things like that. Jon and I went out for dinner a couple of times which was soooo nice. And Grandma took each kiddo on a outing. Tea with Anna, coffee with Isaac. They were thrilled!
Less thrilling were the flu shots, but I was quite happy Grandma was here for that, too (I can't speak for Grandma herself on this matter). Anna handled it very well - the Oreo cookie bribe was quite effective. Isaac.... well, he's three. So he was pretty much out the rest of the day. Recovery might have been faster if it had not been for the second needle 15 minutes later. This updated vaccination was a surprise to all of us. Mostly for him.

In other news, I found out that E.A. Poe lived in Baltimore.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Is that sunshine?

It IS sunshine. Seems most mornings bring clouds, but today it's sunny and bright and cool. And still humid of course. Maryland seems to be one of those places where you can be both cold and sweaty at the same time.

It's Sunday, and I'm trying to decide whether to go running or wait until tomorrow. Probably I should wait. I'm at a point where exercising more than two days in a row puts my body at risk for total break down. But it's still tempting to go when I see the sunshine out there. On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to have pancakes for breakfast?

Another week of school has come and gone, and I think we're finding a rhythm for those weekdays. I wasn't sure how I'd like the daily grind of drop off and pick up, but I think it suits us just fine. It gets Isaac and me out the door and either to the gym or the grocery store or whatever errand needs our attention. And in the afternoon we try to arrive early so Isaac can run around in the playground a bit and dissipate some of that energy. I also like seeing the teacher each day, if only to say hello or goodbye. I'm hoping to get the chance to help out in the classroom a bit. It's hard to get the "news" from Anna at the end of the day, since of course she's only five, so helping out is the next best thing. I also considered joining the PTA, but I'm foregoing that for now. I have a tendency to put too much on my plate, which makes me overly busy and crabby with the kids. So I'm trying to keep things mellow.

As for the weekends, they continue to be a challenge. It's not just the reduced structure, since we actually have a bit of a weekend routine going. Our kids just can't play alone for any significant period, and it continues to drive Jon nuts (because he gets the brunt of it on weekends). I sound like a broken record, so I'll stop complaining about that now.
And to be fair, yesterday seemed to turn out well for everyone. After a visit to the gym, we trekked out to a museum with lots of tanks and huge artillery guns. As we walked around you could see Isaac's thoughts written on his face: "Every event in my life has led up to this moment. I am now a boy fulfilled." Particular favorites were a vehicle made up entirely of wheels and a giant gun, as well as big... missile launcher? His thoughts on the latter, spoken in quiet awe: "That is the longest gun in the world. That gun can touch the sky."
For Anna, the highlight was likely a small beach we found. She collected some shells and saw the water. And we came across a dead crab which obviously needed some investigation. I was impressed that she offered up some information about the tides. Knowledge gleaned from "Busytown" apparently. Isaac just wanted to continue man's quest to throw all the rocks back into the water. He made some headway.

Later that afternoon, during a rainstorm, Jon took the kids outside where they frolicked in the down pour and got wonderfully soaked. The rain isn't cold here, which is always surprising.
And after all of THAT, the kiddos actually played by themselves for about 40 minutes. This was Mommy's highlight of the day. I took the time to work on a photo book detailing our move - places and people we said goodbye to, the drive here, and a bit about our new home.

Never mind that none of this was sufficient to use up their energy, and never mind that this led to a 9 p.m. rave/NASCAR-style race around the upstairs. Never mind that no one got to bed until way too late, and as a result mommy got up too late to go running. Because pancakes are yummy.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Here we go

Anna has a few days of kindergarten under her belt, and with the long weekend here I have some time to reflect on it. Honestly, I hadn't given this new beginning much thought until the night before she started. Then the magnitude hit me and I felt a combination of ... trepidation? angst? annoyance? fear? Something negative and nebulous, anyway.

Her meltdowns after the first day didn't calm my fears. I envisioned a future where the fuss wasn't lessened by a day at school, but rather compacted and unwrapped upon the return home. The biggest trigger was that Isaac had watched a TV show while she was gone. Oh, the horror! The unfairness! In fact, the next morning Anna reminded me that Isaac should not watch any TV while she was gone. As it happens, she has watched "shows" each day while at school so Isaac's media habits have not concerned her. [Aside: I'm a little surprised at the quality of some of the programs Anna tells me about. Of course, I'm getting this second hand. And I remind myself that if I were stuck in a room with that many 5 year olds for a whole day, they'd be probably be consuming a lot more media.]

So why my trepidation? Jon couldn't understand why I wasn't jumping for joy. He had a point. It's obvious Anna need a challenge. She's bored and lonely. She wants to learn, but refuses to be taught by her parents.
Yes, but....
First, this is not a school I researched and chose. Primarily, it is not the Colorado school I so lovingly researched and applied for and that she was accepted to. Admittedly, some sour grapes there. But also, this school district didn't hit my radar when we were looking at houses. I didn't consider it an option until the day before we chose the house. It's a relative unknown.
The other negative is that the program is full day. That's a big change for someone accustomed to 2.5 hours of preschool 3 days a week. It also means that we have less flexible time. Honestly, that's probably the crux of it. I'm not ready to hand my daughter over to the school system in such a big way. I still want her with me so we can go out or stay home, bake cookies or take a class, swim or find an orchard. There's so much to do outside the classroom.

The good news is that Anna seems to be enjoying kindergarten. Or at least, not disliking it. It's hard to get a read on things from a 5 year old, but she doesn't complain when we leave the house in the morning. In fact, she gets a kick out of having the same "work" schedule as Daddy. She's also getting some exercise during recess (provided it isn't oppressively hot) and can focus on eating her lunch in the busy cafeteria. I haven't heard about much drama with classmates, and I continue my prayer that she finds a close friend. We also like her teacher, the classroom itself, and the fact that they have specials like gym, art, and music.
What does surprise me is that Anna is not tired after school. I was going to hold off on extra-curriculars until later in the semester, but it seems she needs something sooner than later. She still struggles with going to sleep, so we're going to do something active like swim lessons. Maybe we can dabble in some local exploration, after all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What was, what is, and what is to come

I'm ready to just skip over autumn and head to Christmas. Maybe it's the comfort and familiarity that comes with Christmas tradition. Maybe it's the feeling of coziness and an excuse to not go anywhere during those cold days. Maybe it's the desserts (confession: I love fruitcake) and mulled wine. Probably it's the mulled wine.

But it's August, school hasn't even started yet, and I need to pull it together. It's been a little over a month since we left Colorado and I'm still processing what has happened and where I am. I've been sick the last couple of days, which has slowed me down and encouraged some reflection (and boredom - please kiddos, no more pretend games. I love you, but please no more.) Obviously, a lot happened this month, so I'm just going to throw down some random thoughts. I'm too scattered to fit them into a narrative, so bullet points will have to suffice.

What Was...
  • Driving from CO to MD was fantastic. The kids did very well and we enjoyed seeing various sights and just being together.
  • There is a Tim Hortons in Ohio. This made my Dad's day.
  • This summer has seen Anna become very comfortable in water. So much so that she jumped into the deep end of a hotel pool without (a) knowing how to swim, (b) her life vest, (c) someone to catch her. A lack of heating in that pool also contributed to the overall negativity of the event.
  • As expected, Kansas is very big and very flat. But it also had some of the most interesting sites (e.g., The Sternberg Museum which is super cool).
  • Biggest road trip regret: We did not stop at the Russell Stover chocolate factory.
  • Midwest churches seem to have a penchant for erecting extremely large crosses. These crosses seem to be made by the same company.

  • The St. Louis Arch is spectacular at sunset. Driving away from the arch while viewing fireworks from a just-ended baseball game is highly recommended.

  • I felt like the "Gateway to the West" really was a gateway for us. St. Louis was the midpoint of the trip, and I had a feeling of finality as we drove away.
  • Somewhere in Kansas Jon's "check engine" light came on. Turns out it was nothing, but you can guess the subsequent mood that descended.
  • Have you ever eaten dinner while surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs? You should, in Kansas City, MO.
  • The National Museum of the US Air Force is huge. You could spend days wandering around, and I was thankful to have a large air conditioned space to run my children.
  • We drove through that part of WV jutting northward. I cannot believe how beautiful it was. Took my breath away.
  • Picking peaches and apples is one of my favorite eastern things to do, so I made a point of peach picking during our first weekend in MD. Strangely, the peaches didn't taste any better than store bought. 

  • The base and pedals on Jon's electric piano busted during the move. It is now experiencing phantom-pedal syndrome, stuck on the damper.
What Is....
  • Trees are beautiful, but I miss the sky.
  • I like living in a smaller space - I think we're using each room more efficiently. Granted, about 25% of our belongings are stored in the basement, but it's nice to do more with less.
  • It's hard to clean anything with both kids home all the time.
  • We miss our friends. A lot.
  • I am thankful for central a/c.
  • I cannot overemphasize how difficult and expensive it is to register cars here.
  • Both Jon and I are saddened by the respective lack of pecans and rice cakes at the markets in this part of the world.
  • At least one kid has been ill ever since we arrived. Perhaps viruses are regional.
  • Anna has lost two baby teeth in quick succession. Bravely, she allowed Daddy to remove both. She has a cute lisp now.
  • Jon's commute is longer. We are adjusting.
What is to come....
  • I feel "meh" about Anna's school. I hope it surprises me. 
  • I am sad that the kindergarten is full day. I'm not ready for that. And neither is Isaac.
  • I pray for a good friend for Anna. A friend close in age that can keep up with her imaginative games and is a positive influence. For Isaac, I just pray that he doesn't hit anybody at preschool.
  • Disneyland in November! It will be good to have some family time.
  • I really really want to like it here. Moving is so hard. So I really want to like it here. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"And so it goes."

The truck is loaded and gone, the house is clean and empty and eerily quiet. I wander outside and consider the peach tree which, thanks to an early spring, is loaded with fruit for the first time. In contrast, a single apple hangs from the other tree, grown to large proportions thanks to it's uniqueness. The space where the swing set stood is barren, and I remember how Jon and my dad rushed to build it in the days before and after Isaac was born.
Back inside.. still that unnerving quiet. The kids are with Jon's parents now, as my own parents and I finish the last minute cleaning. Everything went very smoothly. Packing and loading went exactly as expected, and we used about as much space in the truck as I predicted. Not everything made the final cut, but all items found good homes which is as much as I could ask for. Cleaning went faster than expected, minus an unfortunate incident involving my foot and the sharp edge of the shower door. [At least both parties had been recently scoured.]
The other aspects of moving - paperwork, logistics, phone calls, maps, planning road trip activities - are also complete. We need only pack the cars and go.
All of these steps were made possible by the heroic efforts of our friends and family. My mom took the brunt of  child care during moving day(s), arguably the hardest job. I wanted the kids to see what was happening to the house, to ease the transition and help them understand that their treasures are in fact coming with us. So they observed, played with some friends, and tried to "help" as much as possible. It was rough at times. And as much as I wanted to involve the kids, moving is grown up work. Suffice it to say, my mom had her work cut out for her.
Meanwhile, Jon played the giant game of Tetris that is loading a truck. He's always had a good eye for this, and stacked our bins and boxes and furniture higher than I thought possible. By the end he was more mentally tired than physically tired. Thankfully, over the three final days many friends helped with the lifting and carrying and cleaning. One dear friend even provided breakfast that first day. Others came to say goodbye, making me wonder again why we are doing this.
These are my thoughts as I walk through the empty house, checking the cupboards and rooms one last time (yes, there is a forgotten item in the very last cupboard), making sure everything is in order. Not just for our benefit, but because I want the new people to enjoy this house. As my neighbor put it, home selling/buying can create a seeming enemy where none actually exists. We've certainly had that sensation, and it's not a nice note to leave on. So, I try to make peace with this transition as closing looms.
And now here they are - the sobs that I knew were coming (better now than at the closing!*). Past moves were welcomed, but this one is different. This one is the giant tree stump being pulled slowly and painfully from the ground. Am I saddened by the roots pulled up, or afraid of the unseen place where the stump will land? At last, I think just the former. So the sobs don't last. The carver will turn the stump into a beautiful sculpture no matter where it lands.
So even as the kids cry and ask to go home, and even as I find it hard to lock the door that last time, and even as we allow ourselves this time of mourning, I know the intensity of feeling will pass. Adventures await, and community is where you make it. And between here and there, are many wonders to behold - World's Largest Wind Chime, anyone?

*Update: I cried at the closing. And I really don't recommend it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pros and Pros

Jon had to be in Maryland today for a business meeting, so he flew out early and did some house hunting yesterday. It's a little ironic, since I will be the one spending most of the time in the house. But I trust his judgement and we'll hopefully have a forwarding address in a day or so. Which is good because moving day is almost upon us (as in, we will be in Maryland in 2 weeks).

Jon's absence is always hard on the kids and they have been particularly on edge this time around. Lots of whining, fussing, fighting, and tantrums. Of course, I've done a few of those things myself. Jon hasn't been traveling as much lately and we're all out of practice. Then there's the whole packing thing thrown into the mix. It's been a rough couple of days.

But enough complaining. The point of this post is to look ahead, to focus on the things I am looking forward to about Maryland, as well as the things I will not miss about Colorado. Both are short lists, but it's a start.

Things I will not miss about Colorado
(1) I will not miss getting shocked when I: (a) get out of the car (every. single. time), (b) push a grocery cart more than 5 feet, (c) hang up my clothes in the closet, (d) give my boy a kiss on the top of his head after he's been rolling around on the rug.
There's a lot of static electricity around here and sometimes I feel like I'm in some sort of experiment run by aliens.

(2) My ceramic topped stove. Obviously, this is not something unique about CO, but I really hate this stove. We bought it because the original was very old and starting to break down, and people seem to like these new fangled contraptions. I don't. They can scratch, crack, and you have to use special cleaners. I really hope our rental doesn't have one of these. I don't think I could take it.

(3) Sparse trees. It is a cosmic joke that at this altitude, where shade makes the difference between pain and pleasure, there are so few trees. The older communities have more, but they take a bit of maintenance and patience to get started.

(4) Itchy skin. It's dry here, people. Really dry. In the winter, without adequate supplies of body lotion, you can literally see your skin flake off. Jon and Anna have sensitive skin, and have a particularly rough time with this. Even I struggle in the winter, with that dry skin itch that simply won't go away.

(5) Gallons of sunscreen. Living a mile high means we are a mile closer to the sun, and I am here to tell you that the sun generally wears it's cranky pants. It really wants to burn your face off. So we douse ourselves with sunscreen throughout the seasons. And my kids hate sunscreen. They really really hate it. And the good stuff is expensive. Really really expensive.

Things we will like about Maryland
(1)  Pick your own fruit. Orchards are a distinct bonus. We loved picking our own fruit in CT, as well as the higher quality of produce in general. Colorado does well with greens and other veggies, but the fruit leaves much to be desired. Although it seems like you can by many varietals of apples in CO, they pretty much taste the same.

(2) Renting. Similar to #2 above, this is not a state-specific thing. Nonetheless we will now be renting for an indeterminate length of time and I can't say I mind all that much. I'll miss the tax break, and the freedom to improve/destroy my home as I see fit. On the other hand, I will not miss worrying that the hot water heater could go at any minute, and pricing out new furnaces when the time comes (you know it will). I'm also looking forward to less square footage. I hate washing floors.

(3) The ocean. I don't really know how close the salt water beaches are, but surely there will be something within driving distance.

(4) Crab. Let me be clear on this point. I do not wish to catch a crab, boil a crab, or prepare crab in any way. They are as ugly as sin, and too similar to local arachnids I have seen.  But I will eat a prepared crab, enjoying every buttery morsel. Just don't make me look at it beforehand.

(5) Autumn. Autumn in Connecticut was so lovely, and I assume it will be similarly beautiful here. Because there will be actual trees. (See #3 above).

(6) New job. This is the best part of moving. Jon will enjoy his work more, and you can't put a price on that. It's been a hard few years for him in this respect, and I hope he feels more valued and challenged in this new position.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bone yards, with cow

That's probably the strangest label+ I've put on a box so far, and it highlights the highly personal nature of packing one's house. I've had many offers of help when it comes to packing, but at the end of the day it's something we need to do ourselves. Not only does it afford the exquisite opportunity to organize and purge, but only we know which things will go into storage and which will be unpacked. Since we're downsizing (*sigh*) and renting for an unspecified time (*double sigh*) quite a proportion of our things will remain in boxes. Perhaps once we retire (*sigh in the form of a question mark*) I will be able to unpack and use my lovely wedding china.

So packing is coming along, and I'm almost done with the non-essentials. Of course, there's a shocking amount of essentials, but I'm trying not to dwell on that. My mom is now here, and we have been taking turns distracting the kids which has been helpful. She has also brought a ton of dill flavoured rice cakes (along with some salt-and-vinegar and sour-cream-and-onion) which for some reason we can't buy here. (We also can't buy catsup flavoured potato chips, but I am not sad about that).

In terms of child-distraction it's a tough time here. The hottest June on record has just concluded, so basically the only thing we can do outside is swim. Luckily, our rec center has a nice pool and we know a fair number of people with community pools. We've probably swam more in the last month than in the past 4 years combined. This has had a positive effect on Anna's relationship with water, which has always been testy. She has managed to dunk herself under the water a few times which was a big leap forward. Isaac has discovered the concept of floating around in a tube. Things become a little hairy when he wants to float around sans tube.

I've also been intentional about taking the kids to some of their favorite places one last time to say goodbye. I want us to "end well" as my friend put it. We've got one or two places left to go, and then I'll feel we've attained closure. I try not to dwell on the finality of these excursions, but I do take pictures and note that this will be our last time at a particular place. Through all this I've felt a little robbed. This is Anna's last summer before starting kindergarten, and I wanted to spend this time having fun and exploring new places, instead of saying good bye to old ones. Isaac is also older, and since he's not napping anymore, we have more time to go out and do interesting things like hiking and swimming in actual lakes. I try not to think about this too much, but once in awhile I'm reminded and get a little sulky.

All in all, I think Anna is ready to go now. Heaven knows it's getting boring around here, what with the swing set gone and more and more toys disappearing into boxes. It is hard to communicate to the kiddos that I need to spend time packing instead of playing tea party or cars. Too often I've resorted to "I need to pack this or it can't come with us to Maryland." [Overall, I think I'm resorting to threats with greater frequency than I ought. Bad pattern of behavior, and trying to work on this.] I have a whole collection of novel crafts and toys and books that are awaiting the car trip, and I pray I don't need to use them before we head out. I also hope the temps cool down so Mom can take them to the park.

So that's what's going on here. I'm proud of my kids for handling this situation with as much grace as possible. They are such flexible little creatures, and I can learn from them. Relative to us adults they easily make new friends, adjust to new situations, and make fun wherever they are. Surely Maryland will be no exception.

+For the interested: The bone yards are a collection of broken items that are awaiting crazy glue. The cow is a smaller version of the bovines that dotted New York for awhile (she is also awaiting glue). I had never been to NYC before, and when I saw these cows everywhere it made me feel a little more at ease.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Here a box, there a box, everywhere a box box.

Packing has begun in semi-earnest here. For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to do 2-3 boxes a day, and it's kind of wearing me down. In past moves I've crammed items into boxes based on what fit instead of type or theme or room. This time I'm being a little more logical about it, and trying to figure out what we can leave in boxes for an extended period of time. Since we're moving to a rental, I don't want to repack everything next year. So it's a big puzzle, and I like puzzles, but this is an intellectually and emotionally draining puzzle. I'd like to be done now.

The brainlessness of packing, for better or worse, allows my mind to wander and so I've been thinking about where I'm at with this move. Where I'm at is ambivalence. I guess this is progress since I've mostly been at sadness. This time around I'm trying to be honest with myself about how I'm feeling rather than pushing it to the side and burying my head in the to-do list. And boy, is there a to-do list. The house repairs are about done, but there's accounts to be closed and opened, services to be cancelled or moved, a ridiculously long road trip to be planned, and we haven't even begun looking at places to rent out there. It's this to-do list that raises my blood pressure, while packing makes me want to lie down and go to sleep. I suppose I should be thankful they cancel each other out.

My parents have moved a lot, and its been helpful to talk through some of this with my mom who has been there, done that. When I was younger I didn't mind all that moving but I now can see that it must have been hard on my folks. And I wanted to avoid that once my kids were born. The idea of living in one place for a long long time is appealing and a big reason why we moved here. Now, with Jon's job as a contractor being a yearly gig, and with the future unclear and uncertain, I need to change my mindset in a big way. Transience may be our future. Pros: adventure! new places! new experiences! new furniture! Cons: lack of long term relationships. renting ad infinitum. shallow roots.

This brings me to the biggest source of my ambivalence about our move. It is so obviously God's will that we go, and yet it goes against everything I know about God. He has moved mountains to get Jon this job and to pave our way to go and to create a timeline for us that is doable and to surround us with the support we need to get through this. Yet, we are leaving all the things that I know He values, like a community we love and can contribute to. And don't even get me started on the family we're leaving behind. I will burst into tears.

Related to this, I also struggle with how to mourn our lost home while at the same time communicating that I have full confidence about our future. As I've said before, this is the first time I don't have clarity about what's next. I can't see how things are going to work and this is very disquieting. Yet, I'm fully confident that we need to move forward. Yet, I don't want to move forward. Yet, I continue to pack boxes and "talk up" Maryland to the kids. Yet, I can't yet fully embrace Maryland without feeling like I'm somehow betraying Colorado. Yet I'm thankful for this opportunity to fully rely on God and His provision; His word has truly become life to Jon and I. Yet, this just sucks so bad. You see how this goes? Back and forth, back and forth.

If nothing else, this experience reminds me of a hymn, "This earth is not my home, I'm just a passing through." It's really true. There is no place that we will arrive at and think, "Ahhh.... now we're really home." If I'm honest with myself, that deep feeling didn't exist here either. Because how can it? This is not a perfect world and we are not perfect people. There will forever be that deep feeling of longing for something more, for something different, for something else that we think will finally provide the peace we want and need. It's not in Colorado or Maryland or even (gasp!) Canada. It exists in the Father, and He gives us tastes of "home" to whet our appetite. My challenge is to be content with His (frankly, amazing) provisions until we're Home for good.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorable Days

We just finished a lovely four day weekend (Jon took Friday off, plus Memorial Day here in the U.S.). I was surprised just how lovely it was, and I'm hoping this bodes well for the summer. As I've said before, weekends are historically not fun around here. Probably because our expectations for rest and relaxation are too high and at complete odds with our children's needs for constant attention and activity. We need to be better about hiring babysitters, or maybe just enforcing longer quiet times because the kids will just not leave Daddy alone for one minute. He can't even go to the bathroom without Isaac banging on the door wondering why Daddy has abandoned him.

Possibly it was a good weekend because we hit the right balance of productivity, activity, and inactivity. Or maybe my expectations were incredibly low. So what did we do?

Friday was all about the cars, as we took them to the shop to prepare them for the upcoming 28-hour drive in July. While car-less, we went on a short walk and worked on the yard. In the afternoon Jon took the kids to the skate park in the afternoon while I headed to the hardware store. I love hardware stores. So full of possibilities.

Saturday the kids got hair cuts. Anna was very specific about the length she wanted her hair, and it turned out quite nice. She looks older, like a real kindergartener. Isaac still suspects the trimming will hurt, and typically scowls through the procedure. At least he sits still.
The weather was perfect in the morning so on the spur of the moment we ate lunch outside at a nearby restaurant. (I can't speak for everyone, but for us one benefit of having slightly older kiddos is an increase in spontaneity. And I mean that in a fun way.) All this occurred at a local outdoor mall, which had recently turned on its water feature, and after lunch Anna had a great time getting soaked to the bone. Isaac was content to watch. He's pretty timid about such things, but maybe next time he'll take the plunge.
In the afternoon I went on a great bike ride, just as the winds began to pick up in a big way. They still hadn't died down by dinner time, but since I'm stubborn I decided to go ahead and grill the burgers. Paid the price, we did. Within about five minutes the temperature inside the grill shot from 300 to 650 degrees, with flames licking the top of the lid. Jon figures that the high winds may have created lower pressure inside the grill sucking out extra propane. Whatever the reason, we ended up with hockey pucks. Still better than cleaning up the grease that would have covered my kitchen, I say.

Sunday brought church and a farewell lunch at my aunt-in-law's house. All of our local family attended, and it was fantastic. Jon's aunt, besides being a culinary treasure, really knows how to throw a party. We played volleyball, used water guns, chatted up a storm, ate tons of food, kicked the soccer ball, brought out the croquet, and even wandered over to the train tracks to watch a locomotive steam through. Isaac is still reminiscing about that last one. I just love our family, and I'm so heartbroken that we're leaving. This is why I'm glad we had this get-together early on. Any later in the moving process, and I would have sobbed throughout.

Monday morning we went on a short (distance wise, about 3.3 miles) and long (time wise, about 2.5 hours) hike. The trail was fairly flat, with a view of both the mountains and plains. I was glad to be somewhere with a view of the big sky and the openness that defines our neck of the woods. I anticipate the same mildly claustrophobic feeling we had in Connecticut to be present in Maryland, so I wanted to experience the opposite. Looking far off into the distances feels restful somehow, for both my eyes and my brain.
Back to the hike: The kids did quite well. All told Isaac only needed to be carried about .75 miles. I completely forgot to bring the toddler backpack, and will not make that mistake again. The boy is getting heavy and doesn't relish riding on Daddy's shoulders. (Meanwhile, Anna is unable to understand why she can't ride on Daddy's shoulders no matter how often we explain it to her.) Isaac inherited some super cute and sturdy hiking books, which he loves and which were perfect for this trail. (Such a surprise when preference and utility meet up in a toddler.) I will never forget his big eyes and appreciative smile when he looked at the mountains and said, "Those mountains are big! They are as big as me!"
Later that day we went to another BBQ and hung out with friends, as well as people I wish we had time to know better. Again, I'm glad these group gatherings are happening early on. On the other hand, given that I accidentally turned on the sprinklers while a bunch of people were in the front yard, perhaps it's a good thing we're moving on....

Today, Jon is back at work and the kids and I are back to our usual stuff. Preschool is over, which is both nice and challenging for obvious reasons. Now that the buyers are a sure thing (read: they cannot back out without losing their earnest money) I feel I can make some plans for the next couple of weeks before packing begins in earnest. Nothing very busy, but it will be nice to do some fun things and see some fun people.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things I've Learned

Somehow my kids have found an animated Godzilla series from the 70s on Netflix, and have decided it's their new favorite show. I'm so glad there's only eleven episodes.
Anyway, it's been an up and down couple of weeks. The current buyers seem uncertain about whether they want to go through with the purchase of our house. Nonetheless, this week (the 11th hour) they appear to have gotten their acts together. Sort of. They also seem to be very novice buyers and are kind of focusing on things that really shouldn't have their attention. This has translated into extra inspections and requests that have been annoying at best. Despite this, I hope they go through with it since I don't relish a return to Showings.

Rather than dwelling on these ups and downs, and my (remarkable unsuccessful) attempts to emotionally rise above them, I thought I'd offer a quick list of what I've learned through the home selling process. In random order...

(1) When buying a home, the only things that matter are location and layout. And possibly termites.
      Rug is 15 years old? Windows lost their seal? Paint is scuffed and the wrong colour? Cement walkway is uneven? Grass is dead? Appliances are outdated? No central A/C? Furnace about to go?


     I'm serious about this. Such things can be fixed. Yes, it will cost money (both the buyer's and the seller's), but every single one can be taken care of. On the other hand, unless you're buying a mobile home, location is forever. As is the layout (although this can also be altered somewhat, for the right amount of dough). Same goes with problems that influence the integrity of the house, like termites or water damage, or expansive soil. We've all seen Extreme Makeover Home Edition - sometimes it's cheaper just to tear the place down, and who wants that hassle?

(2) Regardless of #1, the first thing I will do after buying a house is to sink money into things which do not actually matter.
     It's the little details, like fancy faucets, granite counter tops, or tile in the bathrooms that make a buyer fall in love. Once a buyer has fallen in love, very little will stop them. These things that cost a mere fraction of the total price of the house can make it or break it for a buyer. Never mind updating that furnace or spending money on landscaping to maintain the drainage. Put a groovy sink in the downstairs bathroom instead. I'm not trying to sound superior here, because I get distracted by the exact same things when renting or buying. My hope is that I have learned to follow Rule #1.

(3) Birds will always live and poop on a house that is recently listed for sale and/or newly painted.
      In the very few weeks between completion of the exterior paint and putting the house on the market, a family of birds decided to exploit a small hole in our siding. Currently, they have a lovely little nest filled with three or four babies. After consulting with an exterminator, the best plan is to let them be until the babies leave the nest. This has been annoying for aesthetic reasons and noisy reasons since their nest is right over the master bedroom.

(4) My children do not need toys.
     Like most sellers we stored many of our belongings, including a large proportion of toys. The kiddos haven't noticed their absence as much as I expected. Which leads me to wonder what else I could have included in April's garage sale.

(5) Cognitively, I am at least of average skill when selling a house. Emotionally, I am a mess.
     It would appear that, through much prayer and the advice of numerous friends and family, I have made some appropriate decisions throughout the course of selling our home. This is truly through the grace of God, since every time there's even a hint of a "challenge" (read: bad news) that requires action or a decision, I first shoot off into orbit and only Jon can talk me back down. I'm usually great at administration and seeing things objectively, but it is a real struggle when the subject matter is personal. Selling our home is one of the hardest things we've ever done. 

(6) Don't skip on the maintenance and deep cleaning.
     Many of the items we've agreed to take care of before closing are things that should have occurred on a more regular basis. And much of the deep cleaning I did before we put the house on the market should have been done with greater regularity. Had we kept up more effectively, it might have eased my stress during this process.
But probably not.

(7) Keeping the time short between going under contract and actually closing is also to the sellers advantage.
     Currently, there's a long time between the last contractual deadline and the actual closing date. During this time I anticipate an increase in my basal anxiety as I prevent Isaac from creating holes in the walls/windows.

(8) Make an offer.
     We got a decent amount of feedback from potential buyers during the showing process, most of it not very helpful. One of my biggest annoyances was hearing that "the list price was too high."
I thought this was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. People, if you feel the list price is too high and you are interested in the property, then offer what you think it's worth. You might be surprised.
(9) Just don't move. If you can at all avoid it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mara vs. Naomi

It's a rare, rainy day here in Colorado and I have a few child-free hours. My plan was to begin packing up some basement things (seasonal items, etc.), but Jon suggested that I use this time to think. Think through a list of To Dos, come up with a moving schedule, etc. Probably a good idea, this thinking thing. The events of last week need some processing, and we need a plan.

In truth, last week was horrid, bottoming out on Thursday. For starters, there was a terribly sad tragedy with one of Jon's co-workers. That difficulty, coupled with numerous visitors and an above average work load made for a very hard week for Jon.
Additionally you may recall from the last post, that we received an offer on the house on Tuesday, which fell through by Wednesday afternoon. Well, that wasn't the end of it. There was further back and forth until... I guess until my tipping point was reached. You see, I also spent a good deal of Wednesday looking through our photos of 2011 (I do a Best Of album each year). So many lovely memories, and the ache of what we are about to lose really sank in. So on Thursday, when we were asked to take an even greater loss on the house, I just lost it. It wasn't a lot of extra money, and I tried to be unemotional about the whole thing, but that was not going to happen. Not one penny more, I thought. It's just too much to ask.

And would you believe that was the right choice? Turns out emotional decisions are not all bad. In this vein I think of Ruth and Naomi. Ruth made an entirely emotional and illogical decision to stay with Naomi, and look where it led. I've been taking such comfort in the story of Ruth and Naomi lately. Obviously, we are not in such dire straights over here, but it is a great example of hope and God's faithfulness in times of great change, when life brings it's shocking turns. It's okay to feel sad and angry and emotional. God would rather we beat His chest than beat empty air. At least then we're facing the right way.

So back to our own story. The original buyers ended up backing down from their initial request and agreed to draw up a contract with the original terms. But in the meantime another offer came up. Our realtor took the reigns, there was some back and forth, and we ended up accepting a better offer from the second buyer. We're still losing a ton of money, but every little bit helps. This example reminds me that God is also in Maryland, preparing a place for us. So we've been praying with the kids about this very thing, specifically that He will provide good friends for them, and schools they will love. Something concrete and practical they can look forward to.

Time to start packing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Twenty-one and counting

I'm slightly strung out on Vicodin today, owing to three gum grafts that were implanted this morning. It's my second of four surgeries (gotta drag it out, thanks to insurance) and no more fun the second time around.
The upside is that I have child-free day to recover (big thanks to Jon's parents!) and hence a spare moment to sit down and process our lives for the last month or so. All the bits and pieces and cleaning and odds and ends that come with preparing for The Showing of a house were finally completed and our house has had 21 visits so far. And if all goes well, we'll be under contract later today. I ought to be rejoicing about that, but it really doesn't feel very good. We're losing so much money that I'm feeling mild to moderately depressed. Granted, it will be a relief to stop the constant cleaning and attention to detail that comes with showings. (True confession: my inner clean freak was thrilled to have an excuse to clean the bathrooms, etc. every day)
Overall, ambivalence best describes our current emotions, and isn't that the most logical response to such a move? If there were nothing positive about leaving, there would be no reason to go. And if it were all positive, it would suggest there was nothing valuable left behind. As it stands, the obvious benefits are that Jon will have a job he values (and values him) and that may lead to actual job security. The obvious downsides are emotional, financial, social, familial, and just about everything else. And yet peace reigns supreme for us. We are doing the right thing. Almost every indicator points to the folly of this adventure, but we both know it is the right path. I'm pretty sure that makes this a God thing.

Communicating our internal peace and faith to the children is another matter. Isaac has been acting out lately, possibly reflecting the recent stress and and busy-ness related to The Showings. I've tried to work in some fun things while we've been out of the house (swimming, parks, zoo), hoping this extra togetherness will help. For Anna's part, her sleeping issues have worsened. She knows we're moving, inasmuch as a five year old can process that information. I've tried to couch this as an adventure, but I don't think she's buying it. If we're not moving to Disneyland, then we really shouldn't be moving at all.

One of my biggest dilemmas was how to handle Isaac's third birthday. He hasn't had a real party thus far, and I wanted to make it a special day. Thankfully, Jon's mom took on the task and we had a lovely afternoon at their house. Lunch, cake, gifts, and cousins. Isaac adores his older cousins and what could be better than an afternoon with them? Gifts, maybe. I thought the poor little guy was going to explode before we got to his gifts, so we spread them out through the day. Grandma and Grandpa watched via Skype while Isaac opened their gifts in the morning, then another gift before lunch, one before the cake, and a couple towards the end. He got a lot of Star Wars paraphernalia and car related items, which is exactly what he wanted. I am planning to throw another party with few friends once the house is under contract. My boy will have his pinata!

More immediately, we're waiting on Jon's future employer to get us the actual official offer letter. Until then, we can't know definitively which moving company we'll be able to use. Which is kind of important, no? I suppose I could begin packing the stuff in the basement, but there are spiders down there. And the days are so nice right now and the basement is so dark. Not that I can take advantage of the sunshine today, what with an ice pack on my face and sharp pain in my jaw. Apparently I can't even vacuum for 24 hours (I specifically asked about that), which is sad mostly for Isaac. He is terrified of that loud machine so I wanted to complete the chore before he returned home. Well, I shall try to make the most of this forced down time. Maybe I'll start dusting. Or maybe read The Hunger Games, if I can just convince my inner clean freak to take another Vicodin.

Update: The offer fell through and I vacuumed. I postulate a causal relationship.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Brush round and round

I love toothbrushes. And not in the traditional sense (as any dentist who looks at my gums will attest, toothbrushes are very bad for me). In fact, toothbrushes are little cleaning machines. They make baseboards shine, remove gunk from that little section at the bottom of windows, and maneuver into the corners of bath tubs and showers without damaging the grout. You know those details that add "character" and "depth" to cupboards and doors? Toothbrushes clean those, too. Yes, they are a wonder.

I ponder the many uses of toothbrushes whenever I'm using them, which has been a lot lately. I have cleaned every surface of my house, except for the inside of the windows (and those icky bottom gutters) which my Mom just about killed herself cleaning. Yes, this house shines like a new penny, de-cluttered and deep cleaned. We still don't know for sure if we're moving, but today I'm giving the probability a solid 90%. That's why I'm cleaning with obsessive abandon, giving in fully to my deepest cleaning desires. Our house doesn't have many bells and whistles (no granite counter tops here, and who needs new carpet with little kiddos running around?) so I want to ensure that what we do have is fully functional and sparkly clean.

To that end, Jon and my dad have also been busy doing all the home repair that I'd rather not think through. Today was please-don't-electrocute-yourself day, with sockets and light switches and light covers repaired and replaced. Both Jon and my dad are pretty handy, and they seem to enjoy home repair. More power to 'em.

Of course, when my folks first planned this visit we didn't think we'd be moving at all. While I'm thankful for their help, I feel bad that this has been more of a working vacation for them. So we've been sure to squeeze in some fun things. We had a rollicking good Un-Birthday Party with the Mad Hatter (Jon's aunt, who is a party planning phenom), enjoyed Anna's final dance recital (and good riddance), and went swimming outside (outside!) in this ridiculously warm weather. The latter was at a nearby hotel that Jon and I stayed at last night. My parents graciously offered to look after the kids while Jon and I took a night off, so after we checked in everyone played in the pool for awhile. (And to think it may snow tomorrow! Crazy weather.)

Today we decorated Easter eggs and will have a lovely turkey dinner followed by an egg hunt. Not a bad way to spend Palm Sunday. Since Mom is flying out on Thursday it is nice to have an early Easter celebration together. And who knows? There may be snow on the ground by next week, negating an outside egg hunt. As we've discovered, anything is possible.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Everything and Nothing

Everything and nothing describes what's changed since we found out that Jon's office is closing. Everything because the future has become opaque, and nothing because we still don't know if/when we're moving.

The big news came about 3-4 weeks ago, in a most Office Space-like style. As I understand it, the telephone conversation went something like this:
Head office: "You know how your lease is up in October?"
Local office: "Yes."
Head office: "Ummm, yah, soooo we're not going to be renewing that."

Suddenly Jon and his colleagues became that guy with the stapler. This leads me to Lesson 1: job security really is rare. Although I've known cognitively that Jon's position was a little precarious, I've never really embraced the mindset. I figured our lives here had worked out so well that surely we would be here forever. We had put down roots. This was supposed to be it.

Jon has been pursuing local job options, but viable opportunities are dwindling. What he does is pretty specialized, and most of that work is based out east. This leads me to Lesson 2: kids, don't specialize. At least, don't specialize too much. Choose a career with some flexibility, so you can be employed in various place. Like a doctor, or engineer, or teacher. Because let me tell you: location matters. And family matters. And friends matter. And the older you get, and the more kiddos you get, the harder it is to pull up those roots. That is lesson 3.

So are we definitely moving? No. Nothing is definite. Jon is pursuing one of those eastern jobs, but it's not a sure thing. And those other eastern opportunities? They are in places we couldn't possibly afford to live. So, we wait. If this falls through, we go to Plan C; C for Career Change. Also scary and precarious and may lead to moving.

It sounds a little dire, doesn't it? One could read this and get the sense that I (we) feel bitter and negative and are surely wearing our cranky pants. Admittedly, the initial shock led me to a quick shot of Tanqueray (No. 10, thank you), followed by a week or so of nausea and insomnia (doesn't everything lead me to insomnia?) and perhaps some cranky capris. That nervous energy funneled into obsessive cleaning and de-cluttering and reorganization.

But now we move to Lesson 4: God is faithful. So faithful and merciful. We have not despaired or been overwhelmed, largely because He has effectively led us to His Word for comfort and clarity. Passages about trust and faithfulness have come alive for me during this first left turn in my life. In the past, we've made some big decisions, but I could imagine the future with each step. This is the first time I can't see my way through. I can't see how it will work if we move or if we stay. And that's the place where faith thrives: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1).
Does God care where Jon works or where we live? I think so. But He's mostly concerned with how we handle this uncertain situation. Do we turn to Him or do we turn away? My prayer is that we continually turn to Him. I don't know if uprooting will turn out to be a great thing with blessings just around the corner, or if this is just a sad turn of events that come from living in an imperfect world. We may never know, but as long as we keep our eyes fixed on what really matters, on our relationship with the Lord, we don't need to know.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24) We want the prize.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Yes, it's time for the potty training entry. I knew this time would come, but had thought to avoid it a little longer.
I know many parents yearn for the day they can begin potty training. Changing those diapers gets old, almost from the moment it begins. The expense (for disposables) and/or time (for cloth) becomes wearisome. And let's face it: as the bum gets bigger, so does the poop. 
But think for a moment what the diaper actually gives you: freedom! Freedom to change that diaper whenever and wherever you want (within reason). Freedom to walk out the door knowing that you will not be changing pants and socks and maybe shoes along with whatever derriere cover you are using. Freedom to enter a restaurant or shopping facility or park and not immediately scan the area for any and all potty facilities, simultaneously wondering why you didn't just throw the little portable potty in the car because it doesn't take up all that much space, after all.
In short, potty training is not fun.

You may suspect from my reticence that training Anna didn't go all that smoothly. And you would be partly right. Such a regular little soul, she was actually half-trained by her second birthday. (I figured this was the ying to her poor-sleep-habits yang.) Based on this success, and with some smugness, I started on the other half with when she was 2.5. A year later we still couldn't leave the house without extra clothes. Eventually, I think she realized that heading to the potty before it became an emergency took less time than having an accident. But that knowledge was hard won.

Now suddenly it was Isaac's turn. I wanted to wait until he was at least three, since I heard that boys struggle with this a little more. And frankly I just wanted to put off the Year of Cleaning Pee. No, I didn't totally avoid the issue. Once he was 2.5 we introduced the concept, and he seemed... intrigued. But heaven forbid his touche should touch that cold rim.
Diaper on, said Isaac.
We'll be lucky to start you at age three, I thought.

This went on.

Then, about two weeks ago we bought some motivational underwear. You know, the ones with pictures on them. Lightning McQueen in this case. They were for future endeavors. Certainly not for now. I was not ready. I had not steeled myself. The rug was not yet rolled up. The couch was not covered in plastic. The Year of Cleaning Pee was not yet to begin.

You know how this ends.

Isaac insisted on wearing his magic underpants as soon as we got home, and things snowballed from there. Two weeks, one package of M&Ms, and $30 worth of toy cars later, Isaac is fully trained. Hasn't had an accident in days. Miracle of miracles.

Sooo.... anybody want some Fuzzi Buns?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Slightly Different Bent

Every year around this time Jon and I modify the titles of the Oscar nominated pictures. If someone were to make a movie of our lives right now, they might choose one of these titles.

Some of this year's nominees really don't need renaming: 
The Artist (we have a preschool one in residence)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (obviously)

Some titles need only a word change and some punctuation: 
Our Descendents?!
Please, Help!

A few require a bit more massaging: 
War House (or Star Wars House, but that may be pushing it)
Midnight in Denver - Again

More radical transformations for the rest:
Hugo? You Go! An Ode to Preschool Humour
Body Ball (this is what Isaac calls our golf balls that feature Sponge Bob Square Pants. No, we do not golf. No, we do not watch this show. But yes, I have a good reason for owning them.)

The Tree of Life was the hardest one. Jon came up with Stick of Strife to signify Isaac's frequent use of implements to threaten his sister. I looked to the movie's content (a rare and desperate move), combining a recent interest of the kiddos with what I believe the director of this film may have been saying (or not): Dinosaurs Have Feelings, Too

p.s. Does anyone else think Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs looks like Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man? It's a little wierd.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mmmm... Pizza....

I like cooking dinner. It's the perfect balance of creativity and monotony, with the added bonus of feeding my hungry people. Guilt free enjoyment. But some days I just don't feel like it, and today is one of those days. Lucky for me, we have to pick up Jon at work later on, so we'll pop into the pizza place near his office. I really prefer my homemade pizza, but I don't make it as often as I used to. I'm not sure why, really. Maybe I'm avoiding the event that pizza-making can become when there are little would-be pizza makers wanting to experiment. But I really need to add it to the rotation. Nothing beats homemade pizza.

Less lucky is the reason we're picking up Jon: his car is in the shop. It was an unfortunate week for this to happen, since there has been a lot going on. Mostly positive things, just a lot of them.

One event was Tiny Tot's Inside the Orchestra. It's an introduction to the symphony for the 6 and under crowd. We sat on the orchestra floor, with the instrumentalists all around, and they played various pieces. All the while the conductor made the music very interactive. What seemed to make the most impact on Anna was the 9 year old pianist, while Isaac enjoyed the little stuffed conductor puppet. Overall, my toddler did fairly well, but it was a good thing I brought along some coloring pages. Forty-five minutes on the floor is a long time for an active boy. It's a great program, and I highly recommend it if you're in the area.

Later that day we headed to Anna's dance class, which continues to be the bane of our existence. The class itself is fine, but getting her to attend is a chore. Usually Anna will get about half way through an extra-curricular activity before complaining about it, but her reticence began almost immediately this time. I think part of the problem is perfectionism. Perfectly normal for this age group, since kiddos are becoming aware that other people can see them. For kids like Anna, this means if they can't do something well they'd rather not do it at all (or maybe just do it at home). The other aspect may be her dislike of structure. I'm seeing this a bit when she talks about preschool, too. She would really rather do her own thing instead of following a teacher. Also perfectly normal, just a little challenging for the adults involved.
I wasn't sure how to handle this situation at first. I just made her go, sometimes sitting in on the class for awhile. Eventually she'd get into the groove. This week I decided I needed to tackle the problem directly. Of course, the easiest solution would be to just stop attending. But that didn't seem right. Instead I explained that we don't quit what we've started (particularly when "we" begged to take a dance class for a month beforehand). I also assured her that once this class is complete I will never, ever, sign her up for a dance class ever again. Boy, that made her think! And she went in with a slightly better attitude. I can't decide if I was too harsh. Guess we'll find out next week.

Around home, the kids have been enjoying the snow. We got a ton of it recently; the biggest snowstorm I've seen since we moved here. Where I grew up, it would take all winter to accumulate what we saw in a day and a half. Fifteen inches, I think? The snow piles beside the driveway are almost as tall as Anna. Jon made a great snow fort, complete with tunnel, and I got to snow shoe from our front door. This is the way winter is supposed to be! I love shoveling the drive way and playing in the drifts with the kids. Anna and Isaac are still growing into snow play, I think. They'll stay outside for only an hour or so before snow gets somewhere it shouldn't and I start hearing "It burns! It burns!"
 Isaac in the snow tunnel.

So other than wild weather, interactive music, and distressed dancers, there have been numerous dinners, many church meetings, school conferences and info sessions (still deciding on a kindergarten!), medical appointments, and now car repair -- all within a two week period. And yes, the vast majority of these are enjoyable and important activities. But no, I didn't feel like cooking today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Not Quite Groundhog Day

It's been a little hectic around here lately. We've been doing a few things post-dinner the last couple of weeks (swimming, climbing wall, etc.) which makes things feel a little rushed in the evenings. I've also been taking advantage of the nice weather by taking the kids to the park, which gives me less time to do things around home. But it's hard not to be outside when the sun is shining and things feel spring like. I guess we've been to the park enough, in Anna's opinion. She flatly refused to head there now, so the kids are playing in the back yard. Playing together nicely, I might add. They've been doing that with greater frequency, which is nice.

Isaac's big news is that he recently got a big boy twin bed. The delivery guys showed up a little early (while I was still at the gym, actually) so Jon had to figure out where to put what. But it all worked out, and I'm quite happy with the bed we chose. Isaac's room is a little small, so we got a bed with drawers and also shelves for a headboard. We still need to move some things out of the room (like the change table), but the crib is gone and it looks like a little boys room now. Jon felt a little nostalgic about the crib, but I was so glad to see that thing go. We aren't going to resell it (it's a side-drop crib, likely recalled at some point in the last few years), so I guess it will hit the trash. I feel kind of bad about that - but not so bad that I'm willing to keep it in the basement.
Frankly, I'm looking forward to putting these baby things behind and moving forward. The change table will be the next big hurdle. I'll be glad to see that go too, but I'm NOT looking forward to hopping the potty train. Perhaps this is why I'm putting it off until Isaac is three.

Anna's inside the house now, and has changed into her P.J.s. Never mind that it's only 3 in the afternoon. She's turning more and more into a homebody every day, and not always for the better. It was like pulling teeth to get her to go to dance class this past week - the same class she had begged to attend. She's even grouchy during Isaac's story time at the library, and doesn't want to go to junior church. Part of her dance class hesitation comes from a tendency to avoid things she's not immediately good at. So how far do I push this? Do I make her go? Give up? I'm not sure giving up is the right answer. And it doesn't solve her general reluctance to go anywhere these days, which is completely baffling. She constantly wants to play with someone, so why not head out to these places which are rife with someones to play with? After all, I am no fun at all. I'm truly not. And while Isaac is fun, he also beats on his sister when the spirit moves him.

The silver lining here is that Anna still enjoys preschool. This bodes well for kindergarten, I think. I hope. I expect that Kindergarten will also help our relationship. I love my daughter, but I think absence makes the heart grow fonder sometimes. Or to put it another way, not being constantly together every minute of every day makes me appreciate my daughter more. And hopefully vice versa.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Shocking Lack of Doldrums

Usually by this point in the winter I'm bemoaning my life, the weather, and the interminable long-ness of January. But not this year, strangely. It probably has something to do with (a) fantastically balmy weather, and (b) planning fun things for later in 2012. My current happy mood may also be related to that extra cup of coffee I had this morning.

The biggest treat coming our way is a week long vacation in California. Not until the fall, but since we're using my in-law's time share, we already had to figure out when and where we were staying. Very generous, my in-laws. I was hoping they'd come with us, but it didn't work out. On the bright side, my parents are planning on joining us, and they are super helpful with the kiddos and just all around fun.
The motivation for this trip is Disneyland. Anna's been asking to go forever, and we wanted to make the trip before the magic was gone. I think we're too late for that, but it will be fun anyway. I love those tea cups.

We're also thinking more seriously about buying a minivan. I shudder at the gas prices, but I don't think our sedan is going to be a good fit for us much longer. There's just not enough room. With two car seats in the back picking up play dates is out of the question and it's a nearly impossible fit when my folks come to visit. (Currently, I wedge myself into the third seat in the back. A tight fit.) So, there's that decision in the pipeline.

Strangely, my mood seems unaffected by my lack of sleep (again suggesting that extra coffee may still be in my system). Anna can't seem to fall asleep (or stay in her bed) until 9ish, and Isaac is up and crying during the night. Thus far, as I've mentioned before, we've been bringing him into our bed. But his co-sleeping habits are becoming obnoxious. I want him to just grow out of this, but so far it isn't working. Should we do something, or do I continue looking and feeling like death warmed over? If I wasn't so tired I bet I could think of a plan.

I may also be in a good mood because of our return to routine. Anna is still enjoying preschool, despite frequent claims that "I like being at home best." (Why?! There's no one to play with here and you spend half the time fighting with Isaac!) I'm trying to mix up the extra-curricular activities, so we switched to dance class for Anna and a library story time for Isaac. I was hoping to get Isaac into soccer for the summer, but it seems he's too young. A shame, since he's got a wicked kick.
A slight change in routine may also underlie my positive outlook. I hesitate to mention this since it's horribly domestic and likely uninteresting. On the other hand, it also takes up a lot of my time so why not mention it? Have you guessed? It's house cleaning. I used to divide up the chores over two weeks, tackling most of them when Anna was in preschool and Isaac was napping. But now Isaac isn't napping with regularity. So I'm trying to do everything in two days every two weeks. So far it's been pretty freeing - I find I have more time to hang out with the kids and my attention is not so divided. We'll see if I can keep it up.

A final excuse for my positive mood: numerous conversations with actual adults the past couple of weeks. Things can get pretty mundane, and with all the demands (big and small) I find it hard to have a decent conversation with Jon, let alone anyone else. I've been quite thankful for the friendships we're building here. I just hope and pray we can stay in the area for a long long time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Birthday That Was

On my to-do list over the holidays was catching up on this whole blog thing, updating links, etc.

December zoomed by and suddenly it's January. Practically the middle of January, and here I am finally.
Although it has long passed, I do think Anna's birthday is worthy of it's own post, so I'll focus on that right now. We'll see if Christmas 2011 gets similar treatment.

First I'll describe what we did for her birthday party, and then just an update on my lovely girl herself.

I should mention that Anna's party was a few days before her actual birthday. Thus, I shouldn't have been surprised when she asked for another party on the actual Day. Next year, I'll try to be a little clearer about what the dear daughter ought to expect.
I think we had about eight guests in total, and I did a lot less decorating than last year. I went with more a generic theme in terms of games and decor, although encouraged the guests to dress up. So I guess it was a Costume-y theme.
For activities I set up a bunch of stations. The most popular (Jon's idea, of course) was the Balloon Tent. We set up our two-man tent in the living room, stuffed it full of balloons, and then I wrote some numbers on a few of the balloons. Along with just bouncing around inside, the kids could also trade a numbered balloon for a piece of paper clothing to play "Pin the Item on the Gingerbread Girl." (I cut a big gingerbread girl out of cardboard - fast and efficient and cheap.)
Another stations had paper dolls, so I guess the costume theme came out in a few ways. There was also a touch-and-smell station. I had 10 paper bags, five with things to smell (e.g., banana, lemon, soap) and five with things to touch (e.g., cheerios, Play-do). They guessed which bag had which item. Finally, there was a hunt for chocolate coins, which had to be collected in order to move to the last station: a pinata.

Once the pinata cracked, the kids gathered up the goodies and it went into a communal bowl to be divided up later. I ain't no fool. I did learn one important lesson: stick with the plastic bat. One child used his light saber to whack the pony, and that was all it took. At least he was the last to take a turn.

I elected to have Anna open her gifts when her friends were present. My feeling is that children enjoy giving their gifts (I know Anna does) and it's a good opportunity for the recipient to practice graciousness. But it didn't go as well this year. I think Anna and her cohort are at the age of greater sensibility than sense. We'll hold off on the gift openings until this changes.

Somewhere in there we made our own ice cream sundaes, there was general merriment, and a good time was had by all. Afterwards, I succumbed to a virus that had been haunting me that day, collapsing on the couch unable to move for about three hours. But Anna's party didn't stop, since Jon took her and Isaac to her favorite McDonald's for dinner, to give me a chance to recuperate. A banner day for my best girl.

So now she's five, and if you were to ask Anna what that means she'd say "I get to chew gum!" Everything else changes with degrees and is harder to pin down. Luckily, thanks to somewhat obnoxious kindergarten application forms I've been tackling, I've been thinking a lot about who she is and how she's changing. Here are few highlights.
Intellectually, the most noticeable thing about my girl is her vocabulary. I sometimes forget how remarkable this is about her, but she really does have a great command of the language. She'll throw around phrases like, "That wasn't wise," or "The cold chills my bones," or she'll start talking about sarcophagi and hieroglyphs, which I can barely spell. Alas, this hasn't translated into an interest in reading. At least, in learning to read from me. No rush. Once she picks it up, I think there will be no stopping her quest for knowledge.

Dressing up and imaginative play are still Anna's main thing. She has strong ideas about her clothing, and it takes every ounce of my effort to get her to wear pants and a jacket on a cold day (leggings and coats "don't look pretty" apparently). She's still a socialite, and success at any playground depends on whether she can find a friend, male or female. She's uber-patient with Isaac (as in, she doesn't pummel him one-for-one), and can put on her mothering hat when she feels like it. She cooks and bakes to her own tune, and is gaining a decent understanding of flour-sugar-butter ratios, etc.

I think Anna has a good deal of self confidence. Maybe too much, actually. She likes to try new things (as long as she's the one that suggests them) while still enjoying the comfort of the familiar (how many times has she heard "James and the Giant Peach? "Infinity," she would answer). She loves to dance, make up silly songs and jokes, and stay up way too late. Lately she's been using my old Fashion Plates and spool knitting, which has been fun for me, and learning to ski, which will eventually be fun for Jon.

So, five is a good age. For everyone.