Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Planting the Seeds

Do you know that feeling when you make your bed neatly, and then LITERALLY thirty seconds later it looks like this?

No?  Then you probably don't have a toddler.

And for those of you who think my standards are ridiculously high or my disorganization stress-point ridiculously low, this - like the cheerios-on-couch shot from last year this time - is just one narrowly focused picture of one minute of the day.  Hinting at, but not effectively illustrating the frustrating speed at which things are undone.  

Some days the ratio of steps forwards to back are manageable, and then there are others like today when I reach the evening and want to pull my hair out at seemingly having accomplished absolutely nothing.

And of course, it's the nurturing and the feeding and the reading and the potty trips and the diaper changes and the snuggling and the bathing and the playing and the layering-for-playing-in-snow-with-daddy and the unlayering-from-playing-in-the-snow-with daddy that DID get done.  

It's this quote I found in a magazine last night and have clung to all day - one that, I think, sums up all of motherhood:

It's not the picture-perfect home in this moment, but the lessons in routine and in taking care of our things.

It's not the completed sewing projects, but the love for creativity and digging through mom's stash.

It's not a complete understanding of our faith, but the little prayers and conversations throughout the day.

The longer and longer stretches without accidents in big girl undies.

The excitement at reading together and recognizing letters.

The comfort of being held and loved.

Not accomplishments for today, but seeds for tomorrow.  Lessons and values and successes that will bloom over lifetimes, the harvest of our labors.

Rest in that assurance, my fellow moms. 

Gratuitous snow-playing and fabric-stashing photos, since I mentioned it ;)  And happy Julia because she's so darn cute!

"Look, mom, Doolie is married"

Monday, January 19, 2015

Been there, done that, still learning the lessons

This picture, to me, is always the "we hate Ithaca" picture.  It was taken on Cornell's campus, during one of my first visits - a time when Justin was seriously considering leaving
graduate school and I not so subtlety expressed my disappointment at making plans to move to this unfamiliar place to join him.

I definitely didn't see it coming that 5+ years later, 6 months after our move, little tears would well up in my eyes when I logged on to Weather.com and it still defaulted to Ithaca weather and I realized that...Toto, we're not in Ithaca any more.  (Slight consolation that it's a balmy 5 degrees warmer here in Ohio).

The point is, God took a town I hated and a house we refused to look at for the first few months of our house search and turned it into a beloved home.

It's not that I hate it here.  In fact, I think my first 6 months were more positive than my first 6 months in Ithaca.  I've met far more people than I did at this point in Ithaca.

But that doesn't stop the raw emotion of homesickness, missing the familiarity and the comfort and the belonging of being, well, home.

This is, by contrast, my "I love Ithaca" picture:
So much joy being surrounded by my some of my very favorite people in one of my very favorite places.

This is going to be home, especially once we're finished house-sitting and into our own place next summer.  But I'd forgotten what an emotional roller-coaster it is to look for a home.  And now there is more at stake, given that there's no graduation looming in the future to necessitate a move.  This may end up being our "forever" home.  Maybe not, but it might be.  And we're really feeling the "depressed" part of the economically depressed town, where so very many beautiful homes sit calling to our renovator's hearts, but are out of reach because the neighborhoods aren't safe for our girls.

I guess this is just a lot of raw emotion, being dumped here on my unsuspecting readers.  But this is as much journal as it is microphone, and I find myself revisiting my archives often to remember different times on our journey (and drawing strength from them again).

So this week, I'm clinging to the hope that God will always provide - and the memory that He always has.  And not too far in the future, we'll have deep friendships and a beautiful house and laugh that this had ever been anything other than home.

Until then, if you want to say a prayer for us to find a house and to feel peace in the process, I wouldn't mind.  :)

(I hadn't realized until now, but it was just 6 months this week that we arrived!  Time flies!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What Would Granny Do?

A few days before Christmas, I sat in my grandmother's living room, listening to her tell stories of her mom.  

"She'd buy a 50 pound bag of flour, and there was a special drawer in the kitchen.  She would make loaves and loaves of bread, just scooping out flour from the drawer until it 'looked right.'  She never used a recipe."

"Joe [her brother] worked down at the A&P down over the hill.  They always wore starched shirts and wanted to look just so.  So he'd wear one shirt in the morning and come home and change at lunch, and then if he went out dancing he'd put on a clean one in the evening.  My mother ironed all those shirts.  She'd dampen them and roll them up  and starch them and iron them."

"If she wasn't working, she was praying."

I began to have a burning desire to want to do an internship with my Granny.  

I want to hang my apron next to hers and tie it on with her in the morning and have the fresh bread baking [sans recipe] and the shirts all ironed and the house sparkling, and I want to chat with her in the evening as our crochet hooks spin yarn into afghans.

(Most relevant picture I could find in my archives.
We'll call it "Apron on Hook,"
although it is fitting that the fabric is from my other great-grandmother.)
(Irrelevant side note, I really, really miss my kitchen.)
Whenever I think about it, I am always amazed by all that she and her generation got done.  I buy our bread and Justin only wears one (non-starched) shirt a day, and yet I'm still floundering many days.  She could run circles around me, not just in efficiency, but I'm sure in quality, too.

Why?  How?

I don't know much about Pappy (other than that he had amazing gardens) but at least stereotypically the husbands of that era were doing less housework and childcare than ours do today.  Chores were harder with many appliances we take for granted not even available, and it was commonplace to do chores and tasks that we've just about written off as a culture.

It really comes down to women capable of doing much more with much less (in terms of modern conveniences, that is).  There is a huge component of their success (and our failure) that comes down simply to discipline, to doing what needs done when it needs done.  And I certainly can work harder and longer and come closer to what Granny could accomplish.

But before I fall into despair at being the first lazy woman in a long line of incredible mothers and homemakers, I stop myself and recognize that we don't live in Granny's era anymore.  There are a few significant differences (besides work ethic) that make our days look so different.

First, travel.  Our generation is constantly on the run, errands here, play dates there.  You can't bake as much bread if you're spending more time in the minivan than the kitchen.  I don't think Granny and Pappy ever owned a car.

Second, isolation.  This creates the necessity for the travel, but it also means that it's more lonely.  And the sense of working alone...which is certainly not motivational.  Granny and Pappy's entire extended families all lived in the same city, and the men and women up and down their street were all doing the same things (working on the railroad, and making bread, respectively).  Except the little bit of time Justin has at the end of his long work days, I'm pretty much at it alone.

Third, acquisition.  We live in a culture of stuff.  We're constantly running off to get it (see, travel) and trying to deal with it once we have it.  Their closets couldn't have been as stuffed as ours, or their piles of things to be put away after Christmas quite so high.  

And, finally, the elephant in the room: technology.  Most of you probably expected that the Internet would be first on the list, and maybe practically speaking it's the biggest time-suck that's preventing me from actually ironing shirts and baking bread.  Many times I've thought that my life might be better if I just threw the computer and the cell phone out the window, thus removing the temptations that are wooing me away from who and what I really want to be.

But in a technologically-centric world, if I do that, I'll throw out the time-wasting...but also the connections and the information and the access.  If I deactivate my Facebook, I might not otherwise hear the news about a good friend's baby due next month.  If I stop checking my email, I might not know that the women in town are getting together on Wednesday evening.  No one will just stop by for a visit as they might have for Granny.  No one will write me a newsy update letter.  No one will stop to chat with me over the fence while we both hang out our laundry, because that "neighbor" commiserating about teething babies or comparing notes on dinner plans is miles or even states away.

Ditching the technology is ditching some of the last threads of connection in a physically and emotionally isolating daily life.  And so we're stuck, beholden to an addicting technology for the sake of maintaining our human relations.

I haven't figured it all out, this relationship with technology, and I guess that's OK.  We're the first generation of mothers to navigate a world of so very, very many screens.  It's actually pretty scary how quickly technology has developed in my short life: I remember my dad's first brick-sized "car phone" that felt so incredibly swanky.

If push came to shove, I probably wouldn't jump in the time machine to go back to Granny's time.  Not to stay, at least, but I certainly would love an afternoon visit!  I'm grateful for the blessings and benefits of our age, like the fact that my firstborn lives in a time that has the antibiotics to keep her alive through the fever that took Granny's at 9 months old.  I had the opportunity to go to college and have a career before I made the choice to stay home with my girls.

But despite my appreciation for our times, I still feel lost in them.  The 'Advice from a Singer Sewing Manual' was circulating on Facebook again today and I felt lonely and sad amidst the "LOL"s and the "Can you believe it"s.  I can't stop the nagging feeling that Granny had some things better.  Her days were longer, her work was harder.  But I sense an authenticity and an accomplishment and a discipline and a culture that we have lost. 

Neither time is perfect, I suppose.  We need to fight to remember what was good of the past to keep it a part of our future.  On the hard days when I face a long list of chores and a hungry family that needs dinner, I recall the stories of one remarkable woman and ask myself, "What Would Granny Do?"  

And I put on my apron and say a prayer.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

12 in 2014 {photo year in review}

As usual, more time away from the blog makes it harder to jump back into it...but thankfully the "12 in 2014" photo link-up at House Unseen is still open for procrastinators like me (and good practice for choosing pictures for the 2014 photo book that is on my January to-do list).

And so I bring you, the 12 pictures that capture the defining moments, the defining characteristics of our family over the course of this (busy) year!

PhD dissertation, academic papers, developing new courses.
Always busy, always loving his girls.

Spunk, enthusiasm, new things every day.
Daily joys of life with a toddler.

Spunk, enthusiasm, new things every day.
Daily challenges of life with a toddler.

Joy, anticipation, lots of pink.
A sister's on her way.

Pride, accomplishment, pomp & circumstance.
Daddy is a Doctor.

Boxes, boxes, boxes.
Preparing to say good-bye.

Empty rooms, lots of tears.
Farewell, beloved home.

The wait is over, a beauty's born.
Welcome, Julie Mae.

Cuddles, snuggles, lots of joy.
Daily life with two.

Matching outfits, sharing smiles.
Loving little sister.

Spunky, happy, smart, and caring.
Toddler Anna Rose.

Smiling, cooing , easy-going.
Baby Julie Mae.