Jul 26, 2014

No Question...

Balance is important, and as a mom it can feel tricky to know what the right course of (non?)action is for any given moment.

Whether it's a time to hold firm and and let the consequences flow, or give in a little for some greater good or teachable instant.

Whether it's a time to intervene and advocate, or to step back and let external forces work themselves out and shape the results and learning.

Whether to prevent two brothers from pummeling each other into silence (as the screaming and tears began before the hits) and practice using their words instead, or to keep track of time and see if it is quicker to let them duke it out and be done.

Whether it's a time to eat the junk food meal, or eat the growing food and save the junk for dessert.

Whether it's a time for structure or spontaneity.

Whether it's a time for work or for play.

Whether to speak explanation and clarification and pontification, or to hold back the words, save for the listening responses of "Wow," and "That sounds hard/good/funny," and let them find the lesson themselves.

Daily, I wrestle with any number of these questions. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting it right, and occasionally I even feel like I hit the home run, but more often it feels like I'm throwing a fistful of grass into the breeze and seeing where it goes...not to mention those times the grass comes right back into my face, and I know I really biffed it.

Of one thing I am certain, however. When dinner and baths are done early, and there's still plenty to do around the house with unpacking and organizing...ditching the chores and playing a Super Mario game on the Wii with His Highness is the best possible choice there is. Saving each other's lives, giving high fives, and yelling "Dang it!" at the screen when we die.

"I LOVED playing the Wii with you, kiddo. Now go to sleep."

Home Run...

Jul 24, 2014

Summer Activities...

Well, a lot has happened since my Brussels sprouts post, and I find myself, as usual, with so much to tell but somehow either too many or too few words to tell it with. I read an article that the online "brain-candy" type articles (BuzzFeed, etc) are decreasing our ability to stick with longer plot lines and more complex stories, and I wonder if they are somehow decreasing my personal ability to stick with telling my stories, because all I can seem to muster are bullet lists of half-thoughts in multiple categories. That, or it's the reality that my children steal my mental bandwidth, and that I've always had a short attention span. So whatevs. Here, for your short-term reading pleasure are some bullet points of my last month and a half (or so)--

--Movers came and packed us up one week in mid-June. I was nervous and angry because our last experience, while not horrendous, messed with my organizational sensibilities, and I wondered if all movers just did things...very differently...than we had done when moving ourselves.  BUT this time around I am pleased to say we had a great crew. They arrived a couple hours later than expected the first day, but it turned out that's because they were located a couple hours away, so after adjusting timing expectations we were very pleased all around. Part of my challenge is the social awkwardness of having other people in my space, handling my stuff. And indeed, it was a little awkward, but their leader was funny, and a talker (but not an over-talker), so that made it a little better since we could make silly comments and move on.

--I've never had professional cleaners, partly because of said social awkwardness, but we spent the money for a move-out clean, and holy smokes I can see what the big deal is because the ladies did a spectacular job shining up the place. Seriously, if you are in the Northern VA area, I wholeheartedly recommend R&A Professional House Cleaners. The Cat Daddy said "How did the sink get so shiny??" Well, it turns out I've read a little of the FlyLady and know there's a way to shine a sink, but have never pursued it. Now that he knows what's possible, I kind of feel like I should give it a try, even if it's just for special occasions. On second thought, maybe you shouldn't hire them, because they will raise your standards, and you will become aware of what is possible in home cleanliness. Thanks for nothing, R & A House Cleaners.

--After getting everything ship-shape we spent the better part of a week getting from Ashburn to Montgomery. The original plan was to take 4 days (2 more than necessary) so we could spend some time with friends along the way. Well, a little car trouble added a day on the front end, but it was an otherwise smooth trip. And thankfully the Pilot is fine now.

--Asheville NC is the East Coast's equivalent of Portland OR. If you find yourself there around lunchtime, do yourself a favor and eat at the Jamaican place called Nine Mile. I had never had Jamaican food before, and I am wary of a lot of spices and stuff, but I'm 98% certain there is something on the menu for everyone. It was so fresh and healthy...and yet flavorful and delicious too. They totally would've won Chopped. Our friend Pastor T convinced me I might be Anglican, but not the high-church-type Anglican. More like the grace-based, "When in Rome..." sort of Anglican. Or something.  It was late at night, but it sounded very reasonable.

--Lookout Mountain is in both Tennessee and Georgia, and it is beautiful. On the GA side lives a family we've known since their three kids were a few years older than our three kids are now, and we immensely enjoyed catching up with all of them (now expanded to include a marriage and grandchild) and finding we have been (mostly) unintentionally imitating them all along. Same dishes and everything, folks. We didn't think we were creepy stalkers, but then again maybe we are.

--The (almost) final stretch brought us into Montgomery and the local Drury Inn for 6 days.  We found the Drury on our last move and really enjoy them for a lot of reasons. They are all the same (no 'character' to speak of, which is normally a bad thing in my mind, but with hotels I think maybe it's preferable), they provide breakfast and a light dinner, they have an indoor/outdoor pool (where no germs will survive because there is PLENTY of chlorine), they are pet-friendly, and in our experience they have always been great to deal with. On this particular trip our check-in lady noticed we had a lot of family members and a lot of spirit, and she upgraded us to a suite free of charge. It had been unavailable when I booked, but had opened up. I said "Yes please, that would be awesome!" and cried tiny tears of joy.

The thing about the (almost) final stretch is that even though we gained stability in a consistent interim home base, we still had to watch our volume and occupy the loud children, and the feeling of being displaced--and not just on vacation--was definitely kicking in. And by that time we'd all been together for so long we were getting a little punchy, so we made up challenges along the way, like doing separate errands with different combinations of children, and eating way too many treats each day, and such. But six days is a huge improvement over the last move, where we spent 2 1/2 weeks in the receiving-end hotel, AND had to secure housing in that time. This time we had the house; we just had to wait for it to empty out.

--And finally we moved in. Overall the process was fairly smooth, although it would be a lie to say there have been no hiccups or deep breaths along the way. Two days later three guys arrived with two big trucks carrying 10 cartons of our stuff, resulting in a maze of boxes and whatnot.

My friend Elizabeth advises folks to provide their movers with food and drinks every day they are there, and I have to say I wish I'd taken this advice sooner. Nothing cuts down on social awkwardness more than saying "Help yourself to the cold water and Gatorade in the fridge," and "Hey we're ordering food, what kind of pizza do you like?" Even if one of the movers is, say, lactose intolerant and you have to ask what alternative would be suitable. And let's be honest--the cost to feed us and three extra big guys pizza (and a sandwich sans cheese) was not much more than our family of 5 eating at a sit-down restaurant, so really the expense is minimal. And even if it weren't, I'd say it's still well worth the cost. And then somehow instead of weird strangers asking where to plop the boxes, you begin to see the real people who happen to be schlepping your stuff throughout the house. I'm now a firm believer in feeding your crews.

--We have set a personal best for speed in unpacking and situating the house. Our last two houses have gone down in size, rather than up. Part of this is the reality of living in different regions with different economies and housing allowances, and part of this is my own leaning toward a bit more simplicity in life, and a personal challenge to the Cat Daddy to see if a smaller place might help me us feel a bit less overwhelmed by all the things. It's just for a year, after all, so there's not much to lose if we end up hating it. I call it a grand experiment and love it so far, but I'm not sure the Cat Daddy would use any of those words in that order.

This is our first move where I have been both not-pregnant AND properly medicated, so I had high hopes going in. And I have to say I've been pleased. Moving is hard work, and stressful, and wearying, and sometimes overwhelming, but I don't feel destroyed (probably too strong a word here, but not by much) by it, like I have in the past.

--So now we are evening out. We are down to a minimum of boxes remaining, and we actually have many of the pictures on the walls. We've visited one church and liked it so much we went back twice so far. We are working on thinning the crap, weeding out, eBaying, and donating where appropriate. The new silverware basket for the dishwasher arrived, so I don't have to hand-wash my spoons anymore (#fwp). I have become some kind of person who socializes at events where I don't know anyone (hello, spouses' orientation) without freaking out. Afterward I want to go home and sleep, but again I don't feel as though simply attending is sucking my will to live. Also, as I determined 10 years ago, having people you know in your new place makes a huge difference. Bonus points if they tell funny stories.

--HELLO, Command Products. His Highness has been bugging me to try them out since he saw them in a Halloween-themed commercial at age 2. I've hemmed and hawed, and procrastinated, but in this house the rules are pretty strict about amount and type of wall hanging materials, so after a short trial run I went for it full-force. His Highness was greatly pleased to see me come home with a bag full of them, and we are crazy Command people, hanging nearly everything with those glorious sticky tabs that don't damage flat paint (a rant for another time), and which stick to stuff you can't put a nail in (thank you, ceramic tile backsplash). I rue my stubbornness at waiting so long. Who would've thought wall adhesive would be such a life changer??

In conclusion, the thing about moving is, while lots (and lots...and lots...) of things change, eventually you find yourself right back where you started. For us that means my children still want to eat every time I turn around ("You're bored; have a glass of water and go play"), and my to-do list really has 123 items, but I can only reasonably accomplish 2 or so per day, I'm a calmer nervous-type, but I'm still a nervous-type, and I still freak out on Thursdays. And while it's frustrating to experience frustrations, it is calming to realize you are reaching the new normal, thinking "THIS I can deal with; it's (I'm) gonna be OK."

Which is good, because we get to do the whole thing again next summer. Goody, goody gumdrops...