Thursday, January 23, 2014

Waffle iron. We meet again.

Between snowstorms, frigid temps, and strep throat Anna's had all of three full days of school since mid-December. Not that I mind. This is a good age for her - she is fairly independent and is talented at making up fun games to play with Isaac. At the same time she is not opposed to doing a little baking or playing some charades with her Mom, as long as it doesn't interfere with Minecraft. It will be sad times when things get back to normal.
This ever-changing schedule highlighted the perfect timing our minivan purchase. Since I am looking after one of Isaac's preschool classmates a few mornings a week, we consistently needed room for three car seats as soon as the winter semester began. I thank God for taking care of this relatively small need, since it reminds me that He has our larger needs in mind, too. I need that reminder right now.

A year and a half ago, I packed a box of kitchen things and labelled it "storage." There was room enough to fit my waffle iron, so I popped that in the box. We could live without a waffle iron for one or two years, I figured. Over time, in a weird way, the waffle iron became imbued with symbolic meaning. My plan was to leave my storage boxes alone until we moved somewhere more permanently. The waffle iron would be unpacked in a new home filled with possibilities, and what better way to celebrate than with pools of syrup trapped in square, edible boxes?

But today, sitting here in my p.j.s (schools closed!), I officially pronounce us here. As in, we are not going anywhere. As in, we are staying in Maryland. As in, the whole job search thing didn't work out.

I feel very sad about this. I feel sad for Jon, for whom an academic position would have been an excellent fit for his gifts and talents. I feel sad for me, since Maryland still fails to make my Top 10 Places to Live. I feel sad for the kids, since our home(s) will lack a sense of permanence for awhile. I feel sad for us as a family, since building a community is very hard and our usual venues for such things (e.g., church ) are not panning out. I feel sad for Jon and I as a couple, since the greater purpose we had envisioned must be replaced and we're unsure with what to replace it with.

No doubt there is a silver lining here somewhere, but I'm tired of looking for it. I need some time and space to practice looking down instead of ahead. It's a hard habit to break, but hopefully freeing as well.

So I will unpack the waffle iron here, in this temporary place. And I will make lots of waffles. But this year I will add chocolate chips to remind myself to focus on the little things. Perhaps extra chocolate is the silver lining.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Year Has Come, A Year Has Gone

Anna returned to school for only one day before it closed again, due to snow and cold. We played in the white stuff this morning, but before long the kids were driven back in by the winds. Nothing like wind chill and the threat of frostbite to make me feel all homesick, so I rather enjoyed being outside, shoveling and all. Anyway, it's sunny which elevate the mood if not the temperature.

After a week long visit, Mom returned home on New Year's Day, so an elevated mood was welcome. She left just ahead of the storm, although we would not have minded if she had been stuck here. We are always very sad when Grandma leaves, and this time seemed particularly poignant. Perhaps I am simply reluctant to return to the real world after winter break. (So, three cheers for a well timed snow day.)

It was a fun filled Christmas, with the right balance of activity and nothingness and productivity. Early on we saw Frozen as a family, and while one could offer the usual critiques to this Disney film, I appreciate the unique way it handles relationships.
On Jon's birthday, he and I went to see The Desolation of Smaug, and it was.... okay. I found the story interesting, but the fight scenes tended to drag on and on and on and on. How many ways can one fight orcs? Do we care? I vote for more necromancers and dwarfs chanting lore. Obviously, I am not a Hobbit purist and I find myself mystified at those that who object to the lack of ... what? "veracity" that this film demonstrates? It's about elves and hobbits and dragons.

Mum arrived in the afternoon on Christmas day, so we divided the gift opening into two days. There were many benefits to this, as you can imagine. I know my Mom appreciated being part of the fun on Boxing Day (Christmas Two!), although it did prompt Isaac to ask whether there would also be a Christmas Three. (Turned out that there was, thanks to a foray to Target on the 27th and Mum's undying desire to shower gifts upon her grandchildren. I used to be uptight about this, but I have mellowed somewhat. After all, the time when the kids' eyes will light up with relatively simple pleasures is indeed a short one.) For the dinner, I was unable and unwilling to procure a goose for less than $100, so we went with rack of lamb. More dollars per pound, but less pounds. I was pretty nervous about roasting it - such a finicky piece of meat. Nonetheless we managed to find that thin line between a perfectly medium rare piece, and food poisoning. I may even cook it again.

Thinking of the gifts themselves, the themes of Engineering and Transportation come to mind. The former included the standard Legos, and that category included the Millennium Falcon (For Jon, of course. Death Star next year? Maybe not.) Gifts like a marble run and a demolition lab were also popular. What little boy doesn't like destroying buildings? Anna also received a set from Goldie Blox, which unfortunately is not nearly as fun as the commercial. Overall, I'm happy with these items - they encourage spatial reasoning and logic and experimentation, and the kids enjoy playing with them

For Transportation, there is the electric train procured during Christmas Three. This is the first time Isaac really showed an interest in trains, although it's Anna that builds the tracks. There's also the kid-sized skateboard which will more fun once the snow melts. Of course, having more space to use the board would also be fun, but this isn't Miracle on 34th Street. The biggest contributor to the Transportation theme is the minivan we purchased (on Christmas Three, come to think of it). This was unexpected, since the plan was just to test drive. However, since they had exactly what we wanted, at the mileage and price we requested, it seemed foolish to delay. I am quite happy with the vehicle, although the size will take some getting used to. As will the sticker shock at the gas pump. *gulp* The irony is that now we will be more comfortable on long road trips, but will they will also be less affordable.

We headed to Lancaster County one day - our first big outing with the minivan - and the experience confirmed our purchase decision. Not only did I escape from the tyranny of the back seat, where I would have been squished between two car seats, but I also escaped the pouring rain while wrestling with car seat buckles. Now, the kids can even buckle themselves. It's a brave new world.

Despite the rain and gloom, Lancaster County was lovely. Given our Mennonite background, Mom and I found the historical tour fascinating. She and Dad will likely take a longer bus tour when they visit next time. Among the interesting factoids was the Amish aversion to electricity, as opposed to modern conveniences per se. For example, many homes have lights and relatively modern appliances, but all using propane or pneumatic power. Many communities have experts whose job it is to adapt such things for propane, etc. Thus, I suspect that somewhere in Pennsylvania there is someone working by candlelight in the dead of night, trying to adapt an iPod to propane.

The highlight for the kids was the Choo Choo Barn. The detail and sheer number of animatronics on display kept their attention for a long time. Favorite scenes included a recurring house fire, which is promptly doused by fire fighters and a little working hose. There were also 55 hidden Santas, and Anna was convinced she found all them save for Super Santa (with cape) who eluded us. Our departure from the area seemed to coincide with the conclusion of the Amish worship services, so many a buggy were encountered on the way home. I guess that is in keeping with our Transportation theme.

So with that, the New Year begins and we are curious to know what it will bring. A move is certain. Whether in-town or out of state remains unclear. Any positive responses to Jon's faculty applications will likely be received this month. If we remain here, my time will be split between preparing for a local move, as well as thinking through career possibilities for myself. No resolutions, but I pray that contendedness and thankfulness are threads that will tie together the months ahead.