Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ten Years, Part II

Ten years ago, ten years seemed like a long time. Now it doesn't seem like any time at all.  Oh, we joke about how we no longer remember anything about our life in California, and it does seem like we were little kids playing house when we lived there, but it doesn't feel like we've trudged down ten years of marital journey.

I remember how hard it was at the beginning.  Jay had lived by himself for three years.  I had lived in community, but always found my own space if I needed to run and hide from the rest of the world.  Jay even bought a house bigger than we needed, simply because he knew we'd both need lots of space.  The funny thing was that we inevitably ended up squashed together in our upstairs loft space, reading the computer monitor over each other's shoulders or one of us sitting on the little futon we put up there so we could still be near each other if the one of us was working on the computer.  We had two, but Jay's was newer and far superior to mine.  And we didn't have television, so books and the internet (dialup, of course) were our only escapes.

But it was still hard to live in the same house with someone.  It was hard to coordinate schedules, to give each other space, to figure out how to communicate.  I remember getting so angry with Jay one day that I kicked an empty box on the floor and stomped out of the house to go on a long walk.  I think that was the first day I realized that I really did have the stereotypical redhead's temper.  Of course I don't even remember what we argued about now.

I look back now and I wonder what the heck we thought we were doing.  Why we ever thought it would be a good idea for a couple of 24-year-olds to get married and go get jobs and try to figure out what to do with our lives.  Looking back on it now we seemed ridiculously young for all of that.  But somehow we have survived, and thrived.  We have had our share of adventures and have tried our very best to be good to each other and to anyone who needs the shelter of love that we can provide.  We've managed to avoid a routine.  We just keep finding new things to do and new places to go.  We've never set some sort of ultimate goal for our collective life (other than raising happy and healthy children), instead blooming where we've been planted until we feel a call on our lives to go somewhere else.  The next few years will not disappoint in the adventure arena.  We will wait and see how Jay's health progresses, and I will have to make a decision about my future as a pastor in the United Methodist Church.  But we have ten years behind us that have made us stronger and closer.  They have shown us that we can survive just about anything, and that we are ready for whatever life tosses our way.

I often poo-poo the idea that there is only one perfect person for everyone, but after ten years it seems that Jay and I actually are the perfect people for each other.  We sometimes stress over everyday decisions, but the big ones almost never require discussion. Somehow our values and priorities are so perfectly lined up that the huge decisions are a given for us.  Were we that perfectly matched before we even met, or did we grow that way over the last ten years?  I'm not sure, but I know that there is no one else with whom I'd rather share my life.  And I'm pretty sure there's no one else with whom I could share my life. Despite the difficulties, or maybe because we always seem to survive them, it's a sweet life.  God give us ten more.

Monday, May 25, 2009

You Are What You Eat

We spend a lot of money on food.  I won't say how much because it's embarrassing. 

In the spring and summer we get all of our meat and almost all of our produce from our CSA, which is more expensive than getting it at the grocery store.  But it's worth it to us to know that the majority of what we eat comes from less than 2 hours away and that we can actually go see where our food is grown anytime we like.  I never worry about foodborne illness, chemicals, additives, freshness, and I just can't put a price on that.

We also get all of our dairy products from the Farmer's Market--cheese, ice cream, and milk--plus eggs and preserves.  It adds up.

Of course we still go to the grocery store.  My list for this week includes soy sauce, applesauce, olive oil, and garlic.  And whenever possible I buy local or organic at the store.  

I've felt guilty about the amount of money I spend on food for awhile.  I've tried to get excited about clipping coupons, but I rarely see coupons for the things I buy. (Except that just this week I got an envelope from Kroger with targeted coupons that I'll actually use.  Hooray!)  And I've checked out websites that promise to help you cut down your food budget by providing meal plans, but our participation in the CSA guarantees that our meals for the week will consist of whatever shows up in two big boxes on Sunday afternoon.

Oh, the guilt.

Until the other day.  Jay and I were shopping with the kids together and I was cringing over the grocery bill.  And the light went on.  "Jay," I said, "I'm done feeling guilty about the amount of money I spend on food."  (Let me be clear here that Jay has never once criticized my food spending.)  

As I thought about it I realized that we don't waste food.  We don't throw anything away.  We hardly buy any processed food at all.  If we are what we eat, then I would much rather my kids be wholesome and fresh and natural  and vitaminy than processed and preserved and junky and sugary.  And if I have to spend a truckload of money making sure that my family gets the highest-quality food I can find then so be it.  In fact, I realized that if feeding my kids the freshest, most nutritious, most ecologically friendly food available means that I have to forgo a vacation or clothes or home improvements or whatever else, then I'm willing to make those sacrifices.  And I have.  There's a lot I'm willing to compromise on in our budget. What my kids put into thier bodies isn't one of them.

Two things come to mind as I write this.  The first is that I realize that not everyone is in a position to spend whatever it takes to feed their families this way.  And the second is that it shouldn't be that way.  When you can get three boxes of macaroni and cheese for the same price as one head of organic broccoli, and when you don't have too much to spend and a family to feed, that macaroni and cheese is going to go a heckuva lot farther than the broccoli.  

So at this point I'm stuck.  Grateful to be able to feed my family whole foods that are local and good for them...not sure what I can do within a system that leaves people less fortunate than me deciding between virtually nutrient-free food and this month's rent. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I've Been Gone Too Long--Here's Some Filler Until the Next Post

Joshua had a tummyache of unknown origin all day long yesterday.  Close to bedtime last night he complained again that his tummy hurt.  

Mama:  "Well, would you like some Mylanta?"

Joshua:  "Um, OK, I'll take some of your lanta."


Clare:  "Lanta!  Lanta!  Lanta!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Today was Joshua's last official day of Playschool before summer break. When I walked in this morning I saw two Ziploc bags containing his emergency change of clothes sitting over his coathook in the hallway. That's when I realized how sad I was. Of course I'm looking forward to getting to be with him all day every day this summer, but as this school year draws to a close I remember how much we've all changed over the course of the year.

I questioned my decision to send him to playschool up until the night before, and even then I was a nervous wreck. I packed his Ziploc bag of 2T clothes and some permission slips in his backpack and sent him off with Jay, nearly sick to my stomach with worry that the whole thing would be a disaster. And he was fine. And he loved it. And he was so, so small.
(Clare wears these shoes now, and those shorts are so short as to be mildly obscene on him)

I remember that about six weeks into school one of his teachers mentioned that she wished he would participate more instead of hanging around on the periphery and watching everything. "That's just his MO," I said. "He'll get the hang of it eventually. He did the same thing in Kindermusik." And then his trip to Chicago in November changed everything. Somehow, some way, that trip turned him into a different person. My theory is that going off to a big city alone with Vati and hanging out with Vati's friends gave him an extra-large dose of self-confidence that has yet to subside. His next day at school, after returning from his trip, his teacher said, "We don't know what happened on his trip, but Joshua is a different person." I noticed it too. The transformation was remarkable. Same Joshua, just...more of him.

Jay had been in charge of dropping him off in the Fall, but when January rolled around it was my job to take him. I was surprised by his confidence. After using the potty and washing his hands he ran to the door of his room without so much as a backward glance. If I wanted a kiss, I had to ask for it before he disappeared into his world of little friends, paint, and dressup. When the weather warmed up enough for them to go outside, he began telling me that he played with the "three-year-olds," and it wasn't long before he started asking me if he could go to the three-year-old class. I told him he could ask his teacher, but to my knowledge he never did.

Now he knows the names of almost all 40-something kids that go to school with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays. His teachers love him and are incredulous when I mention that his behavior at home might sometimes be less-than-stellar. Of course they are responsible for much of his transformation. Oh that we all could spend three hours every day in an environment where such unconditional love and concern come spilling out the doors.

On Thursday we will attend his end-of-the-year program where we will hear all of the songs that Joshua's been singing for the past several weeks. Then he'll have two weeks of day-camp-ish activities at school.

But this is it. This is the end of his first year of school. There's no way to quantify the ways we've all changed since September, but today I am reminded of how quickly time passes and how precious each moment is. Part of me wants to freeze everything just like it is. But that wouldn't be fair to him, and it wouldn't be fair to us, so I'll just allow myself to get a little weepy as I remember that I swore I would never be "that kind of mom."

But how could I not be?

Monday, May 11, 2009


When we moved into our house almost three years ago we puzzled over what to do with one particular room. The previous owners used it as an office, although it appeared as though it had once been an outdoor porch that they then covered. That wasn't so bad in itself, but somewhere along the way they decided it would be a good idea to put down this hideous aqua indoor/outdoor carpeting. By the time we moved in the carpet was torn in places, probably due to the dogs who seemed to frequently use the doggie door, and the whole place just looked grubby. It served several purposes for us over the course of our time here. For awhile I used it as my office. It's been an all-purpose junk room, too, where we've just thrown all things chicken related. And come to think of it, it's also been a chicken incubation room.

But last winter we decided it was time to do something about it. We got a futon two Christmases ago with the intention of making the sunroom into a guest room, and this winter we decided to kill two birds with one stone. So Jay started putting down laminate flooring, and this weekend the project almost came to a close. We just need to touch up the paint around the door.

The total project involved tearing up the old carpet, replacing the backdoor since it had a doggie door in it, replacing the trim around the door, putting down vapor barrier, putting down the floor itself, and then installing quarter-round. It was all Jay, all the time, and tonight the kids finally got to move in!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

21 Months

Clare is 21 months old today.  In two weeks she will be the same age that Joshua was when she was born.  In the past month or so she has turned into a complete joy to be around.  Not that I haven't always cherished being with her, but her personality is just turned on full blast these days.  And I was reminded the other day that Jay and I sort of missed out on this age with Joshua because we were so preoccupied with her first few weeks of life.  That just makes watching her at this stage so much sweeter.  

She's had a lot of words for awhile, but it feels like she's become fully conversational just in the last few weeks.  "What do you want to read before bed tonight?"  "Gruffalo!"  "How are you?" "Good!"  And Joshua's favorite question: "What's the matter with you?" To which she answers, "Happy!"

She's a charmer who's never met a stranger. While Joshua has always been an observer who wants to sit back and take everything in before participating, she's the first one to try something new.  Wherever we go--storytime, playtime at the gym, mom's group--she has a hug for each of the adults she sees.  When we take Joshua to school she asks for her friends whom she knows she'll see there.  She's even started picking up on adult's names and knows that her friend Emma rides in a Jeep.  She takes her brother to the floor in wrestling matches and they seem to enjoy each other now more than ever.  Joshua, who loves church, even asked to stay in the church nursery today so that he could watch after her.  While we realize that may have been a ploy to score an extra hour of playtime, we were also glad to know that he was able to at least feign empathy for her.

She is so different from her brother, and yet I see that she has so many of the gifts that he had at her age.  She's no puzzler or Lego-er or letter recognizer--yet--but she has managed to learn to be gentle and kind to other people, quite a feat having grown up around her brother who is nice to everyone but her.  She doesn't have his attention span, but she has an unbridled joy that allows her to enjoy everything she does--except when she doesn't.  She's a little stinker--always looking to see if I'm watching her get ready to do the very thing I just told her not to do, but mostly all in fun.  

I can't believe she's almost two.  And I'm enjoying every second of it.