A few months ago, my sister Christine sent me an article about mud pie kitchens. For those of you, like me, who had never heard this name, it’s basically an outdoor kitchen for kids. She told me about the play kitchen my mom had made for her when she was little. I remembered having a great time making mud pies outside even though my hands were so cold.
Jonathan and I had talked about making one for the girls, even discussed where it would go, but hadn’t gotten further than that. We haven’t had any of the necessary resources to take on a project. I’ve been keeping an eye out for things that might work when I was at thrift stores, but just hadn’t found anything. I know we could have just gone to Home Depot and bought wood and made it (assuming we had the time, money and skills to do that), but part of the fun in projects like this is the hunt for the right parts.
One thing I really appreciate about my childhood was that we (from my parents down to us kids) often had to be really creative to get something we wanted. We were rarely in a position to just pay full price for something, so we had to figure out other ways to make or find them. My mom would make clothes for us and then make outfits for our dolls with the fabric scraps! There is a lot of creativity already in my family, but the lack of funds forced it to come out even more than it may have otherwise. When we had dress-up days at school, we never bought a costume from the store. First of all, they were too expensive. And second, they were never as good as the ones we could make ourselves.
There may have been times as a kid when I disliked not being able to just go buy something, but I don’t remember that. I remember enjoying the search, the thrill of the perfect find, and seeing a completed project.
Now, as an adult, I feel the same way. I enjoy getting a deal on something. I enjoy being creative. I enjoy making something that is unique. I rarely have the time or energy to do this, but there are moments when I’m able and it’s wonderful.
Sometimes, as I walk through a store, I ask God to show me the right things to get. I definitely struggle with the feeling of why would He care about a mud pie kitchen for my girls, but in faith, I believe He does. I don’t think God is some Divine Deal Bringer or some Thrift Store Genie, but I do believe that He cares about our lives and how we spend our money. If He knows how many hairs are on our heads, he surely cares about the other details of our lives. And who better to ask for creative advice than the original Creator?
So anyway, all that to say that today, I went to drop some stuff off at Goodwill, and I noticed some items made of wood by their dumpster. I am not above scrounging around, but I admit that I was looking over my shoulder as I drove over to check things out. The two things I snagged were what looked like the top of a long side table and a pallet. I’ve seen people use pallets as the “backsplash” for outdoor kitchens and screw in hooks to hang pots and utensils, and the table top was the perfect width for a counter. It’s also made of wood instead of particle board which would probably fall apart after too much time outdoors. There was another piece that had promise, but I think it would’ve required more carpentry skills than we have in our house. I’m still not sure about the rest of it – we need to find some kind of legs for it to sit on – but it’s a great start and was enough to make me feel like this was actually going to happen this summer.
This is our collection so far. I’m really excited about it. The silver pot is exactly like the ones we had when I was growing up, and Hummel dolls always remind me of my family.
In case any of you should think that I have it so together that I’m building things now, I don’t. I left the house because I couldn’t bear to be around my kids anymore. They rarely all nap at the same time, and someone wants to be on me ALL THE TIME. I knew Jonathan was going to be gone this evening, so I just had to get away. One of the reasons I want an outdoor kitchen in the first place is to get them and their never-ceasing voices out of the house! In fact, a lot of my projects are partially an excuse not to have to take care of my kids.
So there you have it. Creativity is good for my soul. Getting good deals/free things evidently is too
It’s interesting to me how it seems that when we are ready or need to learn something, the lesson comes from so many directions.
I’m in a non-fiction book club, and several months ago, we read “Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. I think it sounds too dramatic to say something is life changing, but it has had a radical impact on my thinking. It’s all about habits, and instead of explaining how to make or break a habit, she has come up with a huge variety of tools for helping us understand ourselves better. Once we start to understand our tendencies, we are able to better shape our habits.
I’ve always been a skeptic when it comes to things that begin with self-: self-help, self-knowledge, etc… But knowing my tendency (I’m a Questioner) and seeing what strategies I can use to build habits has been fascinating and amazing. Gretchen has a list of rules for herself. I believe the first one is to “Be Gretchen”. At face value, this feels a little silly to me, but by understanding ourselves and being honest, we can keep from continually trying to shove a round peg into a square hole and then getting discouraged and depressed when it doesn’t fit.
Our pastor has frequently referred to his rules of life. I can’t even remember if that’s exactly what he calls them, but he has figured out a certain set of things that are necessary in order for him to grow and function in a healthy, life-giving way. For him, they include things like spending time every day reading the Bible, praying, reading quality books, exercising, and having conversations with trusted people. He mentions these rules occasionally and I’ve always meant to think about what my rules of life would be, but alas, there usually isn’t a whole lot of time for deep, introspective thinking around here.
To bring this idea from another angle, I was listening to a podcast recently. I think it was NPR’s TED Radio Hour. One of the guys was saying that he goes to the gym either every day or six days a week. They asked him why this was, and his answer was that if he didn’t say that he went every day, then he wouldn’t go. If going to the gym was a choice he had to make every day, he would often choose not to go. Instead, by making it a rule, he has eliminated the choice. He just goes because that’s what he does.
Back to Gretchen. (We’re obviously best pals so I call her by her first name😉.) At the beginning of her book, she talks about how habits free us. She explains how making decision after decision is tiring and we eventually lose our resolve after having made so many decisions in a day. By establishing habits, we are freeing ourselves to make fewer and therefore (hopefully) better decisions.
Now that we have survived the first year of three 4 and under (it still feels like survival mode most days, but the fog is beginning to lift), Jonathan and I have been talking about things we would like to change in our lives. Since we know what tendency we both are (Questioner and Obliger), I’ve been trying to figure out which strategies would help. I’m wondering if it would help if we made some rules of life for our family. For example, “Lewises go outside (or go for a walk) every day.” We have “(adult) Lewises drink coffee every morning” and “(adult) Lewises drink wine at night” nailed down without much effort.
I’d love to hear if you have any rules of life. Maybe you’ve never stated that’s what they are, but are there any things that are a consistent part of your daily life? I’d like to think that some of these things just happen, but it seems few of us naturally do that which is healthiest.
Currently reading: “With:Reimagining the Way You Relate to God” by Skye Jethani
“These Are the Days” is one of my favorite songs by Van Morrison. I’m pretty sure I’ve used it as a post title before. It refers to the good days, but lately, I find myself thinking “these are the days…” from so many different angles. Sometimes, like tonight, when Alida is happily asleep while it’s still light, Jonathan is home and we are having a peaceful evening, these are the good days. Other times, when I’ve had oatmeal flung on me, Alida is pitching a fit because she can’t have my phone, and Jonathan won’t be home for 3 more days, these are also the days, but the days of learning patience and practicing love.
The feeling is subject to change three times before lunch/nap time, but regardless of the oatmeal and the fits, I know they are the good days. The days of having little lips offered without me asking, of watching as she pours water on a mirror in wonderment and feeling this other little girl growing inside of me. They are also the exhausted days, the achy days, the “this house is such a wreck” days. You can’t have one without the other.
I spent most of today looking for a hotel room in Boston. We were gifted a pair of tickets to the Red Sox game this week. To say Jonathan is a fan would be the understatement of the year. We are both really excited to be going. Not just to see the game at Fenway, but to spend some time away together and enjoy some New England fall weather. I waited a long time to get a room because we didn’t know what his schedule was like, but now it’s working out so we will get to visit friends and see the game.
Since writing my post about balance and boundaries, I have, for the most part, kept my laptop upstairs in the “office.” It helps me separate my Alida time and my work time. It also means that I don’t work while she is awake unless Jonathan is here, but knowing that has helped me focus my energy while she is asleep. Most of the time anyway. Sometimes I just veg.
I’m also learning that some things just don’t fit into my life right now – whether it’s because of time or because I have a little bitty and/or because I’m pregnant. I still overdo it sometimes, but it’s been a relief as I practice saying, “I can’t do this at this point in my life.” There are others who can and will and I need to leave it to them. (Evidently, doing anything quickly has become one of those things that just doesn’t fit right now, but that’s a whole other topic.)
Every week, I get an email that tells me what’s going on in my pregnancy. It was a little unnerving to get the 30 week one, and I’ve hardly even read it and now I have the 32 week one. As I watch other friends go from big bellied to carrying little babies, she becomes more real. I feel her move and see their little ones and realize there isn’t very much difference at this point. I try to imagine what she’ll look like, but as with Alida, I know I will never come close and she will be more amazing than my grandest imagination.
Seeing the clock tick closer has also made me realize how much we need to do. We don’t even have a name picked out. Fortunately, we have most, if not all of the gear we’ll need, but it would probably be a good idea to locate it at some point (preferably before I go into labor.) I still don’t think Alida knows what is about to happen, but she has started to reach for my belly when we ask where the baby is (though she did touch her own chest once recently.)
I hardly have any pictures to post these days since we are trying to ward of an iPhone addiction with Alida. Every time I get it out, she stops whatever cute thing she is doing and MUST HAVE IT. Hope you can enjoy this just being black and white for now.
I’ve noticed lately that there is a direct correlation between Jonathan being gone and me writing. Earlier this month when he worked 11 out of 13 days, I wrote 3 times. Since then, he has been home 9 out of 13 days, and I haven’t written at all. I’m not surprised, after all, I’d rather spend my evenings with my husband than looking at a computer, but I don’t like it.
This feast or famine type schedule is not unusual in the airlines. Yes, the “typical” schedule is four on three off, but that rarely actually happens for us. Because of this, I intentionally avoid planning things the first day he’s home so we can spend time together. Regardless of what day it is, his first day off is our Saturday and I like to treat it that way.
The problem we are running into is that amid all this craziness, there are things we want and need to do on a regular basis – as a family and as individuals – that aren’t getting done.
I think making time for our individual activities is complicated by the airline life, but I know it’s an issue for a lot of people. I’m also sure that being parents adds yet another layer of complication to this. I can’t think how many women I know who have taken over a decade-long hiatus from their work/writing/music/art while their children are young. I know independence within a relationship varies greatly according to the relationship, but I admire couples who are able to maintain their distinct interests and activities. We’ve taken baby steps in that direction (Jonathan played softball this summer and I’m in a book club), but honestly, separate social activities is the least of my concerns right now.
The hardest part for me is when we are both (finally) at home. Neither of us are inclined to say “I’m going to work on X project for an hour and I need to not be disturbed.” We happen to enjoy doing things together and would still do most errands together if it didn’t mean dragging Alida along. So intentionally not hanging out together feels wrong and a little mean – especially if Alida is awake.
But we are both realizing how much we need it. It isn’t just about me writing more or him running again – though those are both important. It’s about us gaining structure and a little personal independence within our home. I want to be able to take on projects that aren’t family related and know exactly where they will fit and how I will get them done. And as much as I love having him take over with Alida when he’s home, I know he needs to be able to be on his own at times (though sitting in a hotel for 19 hours does count a little toward that.)
I’m not sure exactly how we are going to make this happen, but I have some ideas. I believe that getting our office set up will be a step in the right direction. It’s easier to say “I’m working” and get into that mindset when we can close ourselves behind a door. Otherwise, I sit at the kitchen table and Jonathan can’t tell if I’m just surfing or if he needs to keep Alida away for a little bit. Not having a designated work space also allows the lines between work and family to get blurred and I end up getting frustrated with Alida because I’m trying to do something when I should actually be playing with her. I’m also hoping that knowing I have, for example, only one hour alone will encourage me to be more productive with that time.
Exercise is also something that we both need to reincorporate into our lives and I have a feeling it’s going to mean getting up earlier in the morning. I don’t like this. I want to sleep as much as my babies and my body will let me, and I like feeling like every day that Jonathan is home is Saturday. But, it isn’t mentally or physically healthy. I don’t like when the “weekend” is over and neither of us have anything to show for our time, and I feel better when I’m physically active.
I know that in addition to busy summer flying schedules, we have had a crazy summer in general. I keep reminding Jonathan (and myself) that this has been a season of upheaval and we have to give ourselves grace when we don’t do the things we want to do. We have to be realistic with what we are dealing with – crazy work hours, buying a house, moving, pregnancy, caring for another baby – and not get frustrated when we can’t do what feel like normal, basic things. Lately, even when he is gone and I have some time to myself, I’ve just been too tired to write (hello third trimester.)
But as the end of summer nears and empty packing boxes outnumber full, I am feeling the need to get a healthy rhythm going.
Regardless of Jonathan’s schedule, Alida and I will have a few things to provide consistency. We’ll be attending BSF every Wednesday morning, community group on Wednesday nights, and she’ll be attending a parents morning out every Friday morning. We signed up for the PMO when it was about 10 minutes away, but even with the drive now, I think it’ll be good for us. She’ll have structured learning time with other kids and I’ll have a few hours to myself.
Hopefully this week we can get our work space organized and maybe come up with a schedule for separate activities. Beyond that, I’m curious to know how the rest of you maintain your own interests and meet the needs of your relationships and families. Also, I know some things have to be put on hold during the little kid stage, but how do you know what is realistic and what needs to wait?
PS. Sorry there aren’t any cute or interesting photos on this post. I’ve given this all the time I can afford and I need to use what energy I have left to do a little tidying before I sleep.
I mentioned a few weeks ago how this pregnancy has been easier than the first one. I haven’t gained as much weight, so for a long time, I was able to fit into most of my regular clothes as long as they were long enough or had a little give. Between my usual clothes and a busy life/brain, I’ve been kind of surprised in the last few weeks by this large obtrusion on the front of my body. Suddenly, I am undeniably pregnant. Well, I say undeniably, but yesterday I still tried on a whole bunch of regular dresses thinking surely they would fit. They didn’t.
Alida’s favorite place to avoid sleep lately is on my front – belly and all. She puts her head in the middle of my chest, her arms down by my sides and acts like a rag doll. I love it, especially since she isn’t a snuggly girl at all. Last night, I was sitting there with her and her little sister was squirming against us both. I loved feeling how close the three of us were, but if Alida noticed, she didn’t let on. Sometimes I wonder if she realizes things are changing. I don’t expect her to understand the concept of a baby or a sister, but I feel like it would be underestimating her to think she wouldn’t even pick up on the disappearance of my lap.
(I think this photo is a good representation of my life right now. Things feel grainy, are covered in baby fingerprints, and I’m still surrounded by storage boxes.)
The week that we bought this house, it dawned on me that had I not miscarried in December, I would have been giving birth around then. In reading back over what I had written during that time, I realized that I had left some loose ends. I had ended the post saying how I felt relieved, and I did. Even to this day, I don’t feel like I lost a child because of the type of miscarriage (blighted ovum.) I’m not sure if that’s accurate. Maybe it’s just how I coped, but I think it was more the loss of a dream at the time.
A week or so after it happened though, I remember being at a Christmas party and it hitting me that I wished I was still pregnant. I cried and was sad for a little bit. That happened to me several times over the next few months, especially when I’d meet people who were due around the same time. I felt like saying, I was supposed to be due too. It was like joining a club and then getting kicked out. Instead of feeling glad that I could have a cocktail at a party, I secretly wished I was still in the abstainers club.
One thing that really helped me, though, was the advice to allow myself to feel whatever I was feeling. Grieving doesn’t always follow the rules. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t sad. Don’t be surprised if you are sad at unexpected times. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. Just take it as it comes. So I did.
I feel good about everything that happened. God gave us a little more time between babies. Alida learned to walk before it got difficult to carry her. I was able to nurse her past a year. We were able to find and buy a house before the second one arrived.
But I can’t say I would feel so good if I had been farther into my pregnancy. If a little life had been lost instead of just never starting. Or if I hadn’t gotten pregnant again so quickly. Once I had been pregnant and embraced having another child, I wanted to be pregnant again so waiting even a couple of months was difficult. The days slowly crept by and the question of whether I was pregnant again was never far from my mind. It gave me a pinhole glimpse into what it’s like for women who wait these long, slow days every month for years and never get that positive test. It heightened my burden and respect for those who can’t get pregnant or have dealt with loss (especially multiple losses.)
So I guess this is the PS. to my miscarriage post. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t as hard either. And I think it’s a pretty awesome PS. as I feel baby girl squirming and kicking inside of me.
It’s Sunday night. I finally got most of the dishes done and am listening to some classical music on NPR. I took a nap this afternoon which I really needed, but that means I can’t even attempt sleep for a couple more hours.
As I hoped on Thursday, the days have gotten progressively better. Friday was still a little rough, but two different friends and their children visited us which was wonderful. Then, I got through yesterday knowing that Jonathan would be home in the evening. I love that I still get excited for him to come home. I know part of it is that when he is home I am not solo parenting anymore, but I also know that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. To celebrate him coming home (and to use up the rest of the peaches), I made a peach pie and also made a banana pepper frittata. I cheated and used a store-bought crust which kept falling apart so it isn’t very pretty. Fortunately with pie, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
We saw Claude again on Friday. This time I bought a jar of pickles, four big, beautiful tomatoes and boiled peanuts. He gave me his last two cucumbers as well. (Alida ate half of one of the cucumbers, and we both ate all the boiled peanuts before I could take a picture.) He liked Alida’s smile and kept talking about how much their chihuahua would like her.
I have a hard time following what he says, but he told me something about his daughter being born in 1952 before he went to Korea. He had asked me if Alida was walking and it seemed that the gist of the story was that when he came home, he felt something on his leg and looked down and his now-walking daughter was holding onto it. This was good for me to hear. It keeps the weeks where Jonathan is gone a lot into perspective.
Jonathan came home last night, and as we should’ve expected, was sent right back early this morning. He was scheduled to get back around 2pm, but they managed to keep him overnight. He has had a regular schedule for the last few months, and it has spoiled us. He is back on reserve now, and I think we are both realizing that we have to find a healthy way to get through these times. I’m not sure what the key is, or if it’s something that will change from day to day, but I think a big part of it to not let it make us angry or disappointed. It’s easy for us to feed off each other when it comes to negativity towards scheduling. I tend to push him to fight things, when sometimes it’s better just to go with it and not get emotionally involved.
And, as much as I really hate to admit it, this is part of what he/we signed up for. Getting extended is part of being on reserve which is part of being a captain right now. They have the right to schedule him up to the very last minute of legality even if it seems unfair or is because of someone else’s mistake. As frustrating as all of these things are, flying people around is what they are paying him to do. And I love having a husband who believes in doing his job.
So, for now, Alida and I will continue to be thankful for having a yard. Thankful that we can be outside in the grass and the sun and not cooped up in an apartment. Thankful that we have friendly neighbors who stop by and chat. Right now, Alida’s outside play time generally revolves around the hose/swimming pool, her city girl sandbox (a flat tupperware box full of sand), a little climbing set/slide that I scavenged off the side of the road a few days before we moved, and pointing at every airplane that flies over. Since she usually goes to the water first, she spends most of her time naked. I love her innocence and freedom.
(It’s a little blurred because she thought she was being so big standing on the slide but started slipping right when I took the picture.)
The longer we live here, the more friends we learn live close by. Tonight, one of our friends we knew from our time in Vietnam with came over. Evidently she lives less than two miles away. She brought some of her garden’s excess which was a wonderful bounty of basil (Thai and Italian), jalapenos, green tomatoes, and a Japanese eggplant. I’m really excited to cook and eat these. Also excited to one day have lots of tasty things growing in my garden.
Since I moved out of my parents house to go to college 14 years ago, I’ve moved between 13 and 18 times (depending on whether you count places I lived for a month or so.) I’ve lived in 11 cities in 4 countries. Needless to say, this doesn’t allow for much rooting. I lived in Morrow and Fairburn for the longest stretches, and neither of those places or where I was in life (college student and flight attendant) were conducive to making a community around you. Vietnam was the first place I actively tried to get to know the people living and doing business in my area. In some ways, it was all I had to do, but besides that, it was much more exotic and interesting. Even then, between traveling and the language barrier, I can’t say I got to know them.
As I wrote about last time, we’ve just recently settled into the suburbs. In many ways, I fought it. It’s not cool. It’s far from everything. Blah blah blah. But I’m realizing that there are some perks to settling down. Perks to accepting and embracing where we are in life right now. It is the first time in my adult life when we can talk about things a few years down the road and (God willing) know where they will take place. We can invest our energy and money into this house and garden and be around to enjoy it. We can get to know our neighbors without feeling like what’s the point, we’ll be leaving anyway. I don’t think I’ve fully realized this yet, but it’s starting to sink in.
Last week, I drove by the local hardware store. I noticed there was a pickup truck parked out front with an umbrella. We all know this means they are selling produce. I didn’t get to stop that day, but stopped the next day and met the man with the truck. His name is Claude and he is 82 years old. He was selling tomatoes, cantaloupe, a few different types of pickles his wife had made, and boiled peanuts. He parks there every Friday and Saturday and has for the last 15 years. He told me how he had worked at a dealership down the street for 40 years, but didn’t get a pension, and mentioned working at the hardware store part time. I didn’t understand half of what he said, but it did sink in that I should pay attention, because hopefully, I’ll be seeing this man on a weekly basis for a long time.
As we left, I realized that though I am living in suburban USA, some things aren’t so different from Vietnam. I can still meet interesting people right around the corner. I should still get to know the people who sell fresh produce. I might be able to recognize what he is selling and there isn’t quite the language barrier, but there will still be cultural differences and crazy accents to be reckoned with.
I’m also pleased to discover that our little ‘burb, and even our neighborhood has a lot more variety than I expected. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant race, which I like. A couple days ago, I met an Indian lady, her twin 7-month-old daughters, and her mother while they were out walking. They live around the corner and she also stays at home.
Today, I met Miss Jean, our one-house-down neighbor who seems to be the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood. By the time our conversation was over, Alida and I had gone into her house and Alida was playing, fully clothed, in her whirlpool bathtub with some rubber ducks. Alida also gave her a kiss! I know that she lives alone and she knows that we are alone a lot. We can look out for each other, and that makes me feel better. I was also pleased to learn that when this house went on the market, the neighbors were saying (or she was telling them) how nice it would be to have a baby around here again. Hope they still think that in a year.
In other news, all the peaches have been either canned or are chopped up in the refrigerator. Since last weekend, I made 6 jars of blackberry-blueberry jam, 10 jars of spiced peach butter, and 6 jars of peach-plum jam with a hint of ginger (I didn’t have enough ginger on hand.) In the next few days, I’m going to attempt peach-jalapeno jelly and peach muffins. I’m very thankful I only bought one case of peaches.
My in-laws were here for the last week and were a great help with the house and Alida. On Wednesday, everyone left me and it was back to the reality of aviation-induced single parenting and a really messy house. As much as I don’t want to be the person that pretends life is all sunshine and roses, I hate when people complain about having children. I need to be honest, though, that some days, I’m impatient and Alida is squealy. She’s learning she has a free will, and I’m struggling to learn how to parent well and manage my own free/ornery/selfish will. I vacillate by the moment between frustration at her refusal to acknowledge to me/obey what I tell her, awe at what a beautiful, innocent creature I’ve been given the privilege of caring for, and guilt for getting frustrated. I believe this is normal. I don’t believe that any one of these feelings on its own is accurate – if that makes sense.
I don’t say this to complain. Parenting is a privilege, and I’m thankful God has given her to me. But I do want to be honest and transparent. We don’t have some idyllic life. It’s not always cute naked babies running around in a gardenia-scented yard. I also have to remind myself that before I had a child, before I was married, before any other people so directly affected my happiness/well being, I had bad days.
Today was better than yesterday, and I trust that tomorrow will be better than today. Hopefully, I’ll get to see Claude, and maybe I’ll try his wife’s pickles this time (in addition to a quart of boiled peanuts, of course.)