Friday, July 30, 2010

Serendipity, Part 2




When we bought our new house, the previous owners told us wildflowers grew on the steep slope to the left of the house. I thought that was a nice word for weeds.
Turns out they are wildflowers after all... and they are beautiful.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who is the Hero of Your Life Story?

A group of kids and our Pastor just returned home from a trip to New Orleans and the National Youth Gathering held there. Some insane amount of teenagers- like 25,000 or more- all gather and mingle and study and praise and worship together. It sounds like an amazing, albeit intense experience, and last Sunday's church service was filled with stories and lessons learned from the trip.

During the sermon, our Pastor asked a great question that I have been thinking about all week: who is the hero of your life story?

First of all, for the last few years it is hard for me to even conceptualize my life as a story, or narrative, at all. The days are a blur of growing children, housework, pregnancies, meals, activities, and friends. The days so melt into one another that it is difficult to step back and say the year or years have a beginning, middle and end. That decisions have consequences that we can see. That we are moving forward or backwards. Because so much energy is used to push through the day and get it all done, and hopefully by bedtime everyone in your house is fed, relatively clean and moderately happy.

I know: I reach for the stars.

But as I sat there in church on Sunday, I thought about it. Who is the hero of my life story?

Is it my grandmother, who endured all kinds of horrors in her life, sucked it all up and changed the course of our family tree? She came from another land, assimilated, worked, worked and worked some more.

Is it my parents, who gave me such an amazing childhood and every opportunity to grow and learn? They moved me from where they were comfortable to the best school district they knew, worked and saved and worked and saved some more; they were the first generation of their families to go to college and sought more and better for their children. They loved and supported us and made us believe we could do anything.

Is it my husband, my Danny, whose loyalty and steadfastness know no bounds? He gets up before dawn each day, works at his office, works at home, works with anyone who needs help and provides love and stability and fun and order to our day. The best years of my life have been with that man, who can see what our family needs and then just makes it happen.

Is it my friends? A group of women so smart and so funny and so kind and loving? They provide the fun, the love, the support that keeps me going day in and day out.

Is it my children, whom I would gladly give my life for over and over, whom makes me strive to be the best person I can be? They give me purpose; they have caused me to grow more than any other experience in my life; they are full of life and energy and love and laughter. I would be just an empty shell of the person I am today without them.

Could it possibly be ME? Am I the hero of my own life story?
How 21st century-thinking is that?

The point of the sermon is this: God is the hero of your life story. No matter who you are or what you do or what decisions you make or where you end up in life, God has been beside you, holding you up, blessing you with your parents and husbands and friends and children, challenging you with losses and fears and roadblocks, and loving you every single moment. He saves you from yourself.

God has been there all along.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

De Ja Vu.


When I looked at the pictures posted yesterday, I knew I had a similar shot of Jenna... can you tell they are siblings??

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dinnertime.




Tonight's dinner for Alec: meatloaf, oatmeal, and a little bit of ripped up napkin, which I'm pretty sure qualifies as a carb.

Here he is also demonstrating his new trick: "How big is Alec? SOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo big!" He does it when HE wants to, and if you try to coax him to do it on demand, he looks at you with the exact same look Jenna did, the one that says, "I'm not some PERFORMING MONKEY... I'll do it when I feel like."
Eating has been a bit of a challenge for Alec. He seems to just now be able to tolerate textures different than pureed baby food; I tried a few weeks ago giving him those puffs that melt in your mouth and as soon as he tried it, he gagged and promptly barfed up his whole dinner. Jenna, for all of her, ahem, difficulties, was always a great eater and still is. Michaela got furious at this age that I had to feed her and swore off baby food and just lived on formula until she could feed herself a bit better. Alec is a mix of the two: willing to be fed, really enjoys certain foods- he could live on oatmeal and applesauce- but struggles with the texture thing.
This became abundantly clear last weekend, when after a good hearty dinner for all of us, we went outside to weed our front bed, which had been neglected for some time. I sat Alec down on a blanket in the shade, brought out some toys, and went to work weeding. (The girls also weeded for about 7 minutes, then Michaela said quite hesitantly, "Oohh, Tomer (a boy in our neighborhood that the girls have played with) is outside... I'm going to ask him if his mom had her baby..." which was code for This is really boring and I'm trying to casually get out of it. ) Alec, however, was much more interested in the grass and started pulling it out by the handful and stuffing it in his mouth. Which made him gag. And made him puke. So after working for about 15 minutes, I had a barf-covered kid and blanket to deal with. I stripped him of his clothes outside, went inside and gave him a bath. When we came back out, I was smart and just put him in the stroller, where he promptly fell asleep.
But this week we started giving him some more table foods: the meatloaf, grilled cheese, pastas, bread, etc. Some he really likes and some he is indifferent to. At least he's trying and tolerating it a bit better. The one thing he does seem to really enjoy eating- which the girls never, ever paid attention to- is the cat's food.
He'll gobble that by the handful, and just smiles sweetly, oh so sweetly up at me, when I say in my best firm Mommy voice, "No, Alec! Yucky!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The rhythm of summer.

We are finally hitting our stride this week.

Summer is here in full force: it has been over 88 degrees for most of the last week and a half. Add to that the incredible mugginess and you can tell just by looking at my frizzed out hair that it's July. I have been scampering around the house, pulling down shades, pulling curtains closed and turning up the thermostat so we don't end up with an out of control power bill.

We have started doing some of the fun things we wait all year to do: Dan brought the girls to the drive in movies for the first time (they saw the new Karate Kid, which got good reviews in our family, but Dan says he'll always be partial to the original), we've gone for ice cream, enjoyed tons of playdates, done some crafts, enjoyed some bluegrass music at our library summer concert series, and of course have swam. Wipeout is back on ABC for the summer, and we have set our DVR to record the whole series. The girls LOVE it.
The only issue we are having is getting the girls to bed at a decent hour. They drag out the getting ready for bed process so long that they often lose their reward: laying on our bed and reading aloud with me for a few minutes before heading into their own rooms. We are reading On the Banks of Plum Creek from the Little House Series, and I am so excited to read it to them but-and I am not making this up- it took them 45 minutes to get jammies on, get a snack, brush teeth and go to the bathroom. 45 MINUTES! It is like every night is a new experience for them:"Do I HAVE TO brush my teeth?" "But I went potty a little while ago!" "I have no pajamas to wear!" and so on and so on... the best is when on the rare occasion I say it is okay to skip brushing teeth and Jenna always whispers with shock and awe, "What will the dentist say?"
"He'll say that you should take the two minutes and brush your teeth so they are healthy," I always tell her.
Sigh. And so on and so on.

Alec is doing great, crawling around, occasionally pulling himself up, and working hard on popping out his first bottom teeth. He teeths much like his sisters, very easily, with little fuss and drama and crying. He has been sleeping through the night most nights now, which is an absolute joy and dream and makes me love him all the more. He goes to bed around 9pm and sleeps til around 6am, and then takes a morning bottle and falls back to sleep with me on the couch for an hour or two, allowing us to get some good cuddle time in. He is growing great and is in the 92nd percentile for height and 75th for weight. He is a love and a blessing and a joy.

As you can see from the pictures, we are mostly settled in and getting used to living in the new house. With every day that passes we are more comfortable here, hanging some more pictures, processing some more boxes and loving being here more and more. We can BREATHE in this house.

The last year of my life has been such a blur because of Alec's arrival and moving, I am beyond ready to sit back, relax and just float through the next couple of years.
For now, I am enjoying the summer and spending all this time with our babies.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First Peeks at the New House.

Here are some of my favorite places in the new house...











Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lil' Crawler.

Suddenly, we have achieved mobility.

video

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Closings, The Move and The House.

Ahhhh.
Back into blogging after a brief break to sell a house, buy a house, move into my parents' house, move into the new house and unpack 5,837 boxes.
Shockingly, it all went smooth as silk. Except when I sobbed at the closing.

There I was last Friday, sitting at a big conference room table, with my steadfast Danny next to me, our attorney next to him (interesting side note: our attorney looked ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like what I thought he would. I imagined a dad-type, mildly schlempy guy with bushy hair. Turns out he's short and thin- he's a triathlete- with reddish hair and very trim and buttoned-up looking. The difference was so shocking and I was so emotionally off-kilter that when I shook his hand for the first time I said, "WOW! I imagined you TOTALLY differently!" Thanks, Brain Filter, for taking the day off.) and the buyers of our house sitting across from us with their real estate agent and the settlement representative at the head of the table (additional interesting side note: the settlement guy was VERY Italian, and the most barrel-chested man I've ever seen in real life. He didn't say much, and mostly talked with the attorneys and shuffled paper around, but was vaguely hot. Like I said, I was a little emotionally off-kilter. And for some unknown reason, he left between our closings- we stayed in the same room to both buy and sell- and took off his tie and changed his shirt, which he unbuttoned about a third of the way down. It was a little jarring.) as we all passed papers back and forth and signed our names. I was pretty agitated during the whole thing, sad and excited and nervous and desperate to get a sense of the people who would soon be living in my house. Unfortunately for me, they were pretty flat and quiet and didn't really offer too much about themselves. So I peppered them with questions, anything to engage them, make them see what a great house they are getting and they gave me mostly one or two word answers. So I start blurting out things that I love about our house (big mistake) and started with the maple trees.
"They're really beautiful trees and they are such a great way to watch the seasons change,"said I.
"Great," they reply politely.
"And on the one side of the house is a little perennial garden, with peonies and lilacs and irises... the irises are from my aunt's garden..." And that's when I started crying so hard that I had to turn my chair around. Because I am abandoning my garden, living things that were given to me by several different family members, plants that were given to me as gifts for my birthdays, and leaving them behind. And they will not be as special to someone else as they were to me.

And the room got really, really quiet.
And finally the buyer's agent said quietly, "You're getting a house that is well-loved."
Someone got me a tissue, Dan rubbed my shoulder and the girl buying our house said very helpfully, "I like flowers."

Part of the problem, I think, was that the day before I went to our house to clean it for the last time. I walked through the empty rooms, the hardwood echoing off all the walls, and as I cleaned the bathroom that we renovated and washed the floors that we refinished and vacuumed the carpets that we laid down all I could think of was the way my family lived and grew in this house. This is where my girls ate their breakfast. This is where I tucked them into bed each night. This is where we opened gifts on Christmas morning. This is where we all sat around the table at dinner every night. I wasn't sad, necessarily, just wistful and flooded with memories. But I think that at the closing, when we physically handed over the keys to our house to someone else, it all hit me that I was never going back to that house again.

Thankfully, our second closing went a little better- the sellers of our new house were very matter-of-fact about the transaction and were lovely people, chatting with us and giving us little bits of information about the house. It all went very quickly and when we were all done, we stood up, shook hands and I blurted out,"We adore the house and will take good care of it!" and I think that what I really wanted our buyers to say to us. Oh well.

The really ironic thing is that we actually did go back to our old house after the closing. We asked the new owners if we could stop by just to have a picture taken of our family of five to match the picture we took the day we bought the house 10 years ago. They said that was fine, and wouldn't you know, as we are standing around, mentally saying goodbye for the last time, capturing the moment forever, all-rosy-eyed and wistful, who pulls up but a contractor coming to give an estimate. A CONTRACTOR! AT MY HOUSE! To do work that I DID NOT APPROVE! Jeez louise! How about letting the ink dry on your new deed before ripping the house apart!?! Man!

In a way, it was a good break for me to make: it truly is not my house anymore and I have to let it go. So I did.
And that was made infinitely easier by going to our new house and imagining all of our stuff being moved in the next day.

Moving in day was also smooth and problem free for the most part; our movers were respectful and nice and laughed at all of my nerve-induced stupid jokes. They did not break one thing, leave one mark, nothing- they were really wonderful. And, as a bonus, one of them looked EXACTLY like Spanish from the movie Old School. His name was Jose and he was awesome.

The moment I was dreading was the moment when the truck was unloaded and they pulled away and we were left to process 11,000 pounds of stuff. Did I tell you that? Our estimates from the movers all calculated that we have 11,000 pounds of furniture, clothing, boxes and bins. Wow. Holy First-World-Consumer, Batman.

But it wasn't that bad. Thankfully, unpacking goes infinitely faster than packing, and we have about an extra 1000 square feet- plus a basement- to put everything in. Our main priorities were getting the kitchen together, then the beds for the kids and us. Our aunt came over and cleaned all the bathrooms for us- a real labor of love. A friend of mine came over that night and organized the pantry and helped with placement of things in the kitchen. My mom watched Alec for me all day and helped manage the kids and our meals. My dad moved furniture from his house to our house, moved furniture from a relative's house to our house, moved our deconstructed swingset, and moved a ton of boxes all day. Michaela, God bless her, unpacked her entire room by herself and worked like a dog to set it all up. It is neat as a pin and perfectly organized. My other daughter, who shall remain nameless, spent the day tearing into boxes of dolls and babies and toys that she'd been separated from for the last few weeks and they are still splayed all over her bedroom floor.

Long story short, we are in this house a week and we are all in love. The house is spacious and airy and we can BREATHE in it. We are really enjoying spending time in every room and getting used to living, really living, in the house. We love our backyard and our deck and have eaten many meals outside. We have a few boxes left in each room to process but for the most part are unpacked. We have pictures to hang, little projects to do, and have spent the last week doing all the kinds of things you need to do when you move into any new place. And it's such exciting stuff: we replaced the toilet seats, changed a doorknob, bought some curtain rod rings to hang curtains, shopped for a new stove (this one works but is pretty beat up and the smooth cooktop has been ruined by someone) and bought a new water filter for the fridge and a new water dispenser drip tray. Whoo-hoo.

The swingset has been re-constructed, curtains have been hung, the garage has been organized and Danny has even washed all of the downstairs windows. The girls have taken (or have been allowed to take) two baths in the garden Jacuzzi tub, though they ask juuuust about every day to take another one.

One of the most exciting things for me has been setting up the dining room. We were lucky enough to inherit a beautiful formal dining room set from our aunt and uncle and it has a china hutch. I was able to fill that hutch with things that I have had for over 13 years but have never had a place to display. My cousin was stationed in Japan for a year and when he came back, he brought me a set of three beautiful Japanese vases. I have moved those vases from apartment to apartment to our old house to this house and now they finally have a proud home in the china hutch.

That alone thrills me.

Contrary to plan, we did not sit out on our deck last week and suck down Sam Adams Summer Ales: I was so tired that I was almost sleeping standing up when Danny finally said to me,"You need to go to bed." But we have enjoyed a few of them this week in the evening and we have the rest of the summer to relax and enjoy them.

We're home!