Thursday, May 28, 2015

Right Now

It's late.

I should go to bed.

But the house is quiet. It's all mine, and I may have poured a drink just a little too strong.

I'll regret this in the morning, but my reasons are so different than they used to be.

Tonight I had a moment of jealousy tonight hearing a twenty-two year causally discuss being a twenty-two year old. I was never really a twenty-two year old. I was a mom, and I was pregnant with another. But I remember being nineteen and in college, pretending to be a twenty-two year old. It was grand. (Actually, I was pretending to be much older, but you get the drift.)

I remember having no one else to worry about. I remember what it was like to sleep in. I remember what it felt like to feel poor but to also have money to blow on bar tabs and concert tickets.

I know that at any moment the baby could wake up. At any moment, I could be summoned upstairs. But right now...this is mine. This moment with only the fan whirling in the background. The to-do list fades into nothingness come midnight. The dishes in the sink will wait. The laundry can't be sorted. Right now is mine.

Right now is grand.

Twos Revisited

His knees are always scraped up and dirty. His hair always needs brushed. He usually needs pants. He seldom wears shoes.

He speaks well, and he runs slow. He would follow his older brother just about anywhere.

Remember when I said the twos got a bad rap? I change my mind. I forgot how the twos are when they break my heart. The twos are when they realize that Oma trumps mama. Oma has better snacks. Oma doesn't turn off the television. Oma is patient, and she'll sleep with them the whole night through. She never yells and rarely says no. And so they beg to stay with her all the time. They never want to leave.

I've lost another one. And he sure was a cute one to lose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

This Weekend We

Kids, rafts, kayaks, dogs, beer, and couple of perfect tomatoes. All in all, a pretty good afternoon.

Memorial Day (Weekend) and I have a a tenuous relationship. The holiday has let me down on more than one occasion, despite the fact that I really want it to be great. It feels a little like the coolest girl around who you really want to be friends with. Sure, she smiles at you and says "hey," but she isn't about to start inviting you out to cheap pitcher night at the local dive bar or anything. 

On Saturday when I was not headed out to go boating and barbecuing with all the people I love, I was definitely feeling more than a little pissed off that this damn holiday let me down yet again. 

But yesterday made up for it, at least a little bit. We spent the afternoon at my parent's house with a couple of couples and a whole lot of kids.  And even though Arlo drew all over my mom's wallpaper, which caused me quite a bit of guilt ridden anxiety (sorry about that, mama, really), it was a nice way to spend the final afternoon of a long weekend. 

Thus begins the season of cookouts and camping trips and as much time spent on the water as we can pack into our days. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On Working

Right now I'm attached to a breast pump wearing a royal blue polyester shirt in a quiet house. My whole family has gone off on a Memorial Day adventure, but I won't be joining them because I have to go work.

When we decided to have a fourth child, we decided that I wouldn't go back to teaching. I wanted to spend most of my time at home schooling my own children. But our finances / lifestyle requires me to bring in a little bread. Waitressing makes sense. I  enjoy waitressing. It's good, fast money. I'm an extrovert. I like helping people have a good time. A couple of weeks ago I started at the place my younger sister has worked for years. It's fun and the views are great. All and all, it's not a bad deal. Until...

It's a holiday weekend, and I want to be doing all the fun things everyone else wants to be doing, but instead I'm attached to a breast pump in my polyester shirt in a quiet house feeling a little sad and thinking about life choices.

Sure, we could probably skate by without my part-time job, but that would mean added stress when a car breaks down, and it would definitely mean we couldn't make trips to visit my best friend in New York. It would mean no new house plants ever, and not being able to feed my family the sorts of foods we place a high premium on. It would mean lots of little sacrifices.

Or it could mean a huge change, like moving somewhere cheaper, away from my extended family and the water. Maybe we could have land and chickens and a big garden and live in a smaller house, things I have dreamed about, but don't chose over morning cups of coffee with my sister-neighbor.

So two evenings a week, I won't be feeding my family dinner; I'll be serving it to strangers. I'll be cracking jokes and smiling as I pass their table, throwing them a thumbs up signal with a question on my face. "Is everything okay?" I lip sync from a distance. I pay cash for all my groceries now and will soon be complaining about my sore feet. When invitations hit my inbox, I have to decide if I'm going to request off, and sometimes I will have to decline, and I will be in this very same spot again, and once again, I will likely wonder if I'm making the right choice, if a little extra money is worth trading for a little less fun.

I wish that there was a different way or that I could just be less of a consumer, a little more thrifty. But for now I'm doing my best to find a work/ life balance that works for me and my family, and just like all important decisions, I'm second guessing myself.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spinning My Wheels

I can't tell you how many times I've collected those plastic building pieces from around the house in the past 48 hours, but whatever the number is, add a few more times that I have asked Sena or Gus to do the same thing.

And today I had big plans to get to the bottom of my laundry pile, but it's raining and I have become strict about line drying, so it will have to wait till tomorrow, though chances are, I will never see the bottom of that wicker basket full of dirty clothes. Never.

And my kitchen sink needs to cleaned and the floors need to be vacumed, and there are at least a dozen other such chores that are calling my name. But Alamae James just wants to bounce on my knees, so I sit here typing with one hand as she coos and drools. At least it affords me a moment to do one thing I want to do, find space for my thoughts. But meanwhile, the tasks pile up.

For the past two days I have scurried around my house picking up and folding and wiping, and yet, nothing looks different, and it likely won't for quite some time. I stop what I'm doing to help Gus with math problems or read a chapter of one of his books with him. Sena wants to do the next video in our 30 day yoga challenge. Arlo would give his left hand for me to just turn on the television.

I do my best to live my life as well as I am able. But some days are mundane and frustrating, and I force myself to try to think bright thoughts, grateful thoughts, as a bit of sadness sits right behind my eyes. On Tuesday I went to work at my new part time job with the intention of finding beauty in each and every person I saw. It was harder work than I had imagined. I woke up Wednesday exshausted from it. Still, I did my best to trudge on through my shift, even when I wanted to scream, "Don't you assholes know I'm trying to be positive over here?" I kept offering up smiles, finding plenty returned.

I wish every day was camping trips and rafts on the bay. I wish every day was strawberry picking and nature journaling and picnicing and friends visiting. Some days are those things. Some days aren't.

These are all the days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

With You

Alamae James from rachel weaver on Vimeo.

You aren't supposed to serve guests a meal and then nitpick your own cooking. It's bad form. But just like I have a hard time not pointing out that I overcooked the chicken or that I should have salted the rub more, it's hard for me not to mention the cameo appearances by my thumb or the awkward faces I make when the camera turns on me. Regardless, just like those flawed meals, I still self-consciously enjoy this.

This Weekend We // Rocky Gap Party of Six

We don't often do things as an immediate family. We tend to travel with a larger tribe, friends or family or some combination of the two. But this weekend stole away as a party of six spending our time without distraction.

We drove three hours to the mountains, at least "mountains" by East Coast standards. The nostalgia came in fast and hard as we drove, thinking about other times I had made a similar drive, all those music festivals first as a college kid, later dragging along Sena and Gus until the whole thing finally became too much. Time did that confusing thing when everything seems like it just happened but also that it happened a lifetime ago.

We spent a few days in a too small cabin, mostly playing in the drizzle but occasionally getting a few hours of sunshine and blue skies. The air was thick with the smell of earth, and the moss beneath our feet felt better than any carpet ever made by man. We found thousands of tadpoles at the lake's edge, came across a baby fawn waiting for her mother right along the path. We walked through the forest in inappropriate foot ware, identifying whatever plants and trees we could.

Tom played boardgames with the kids while I nursed Alamae. We grilled and we made s'mores. Gus and I hardly slept-- he because he was scared of bears, me because a room full of that many people I love means so many breaths to be listening to all night long. We came home dirty and tired and happy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Jewish Parable

A man once lived in his small house with his wife and six children. The house was loud and crowded. There was no peace to be found. For years his ever patient wife heard his complaints, shouldering the burden, until one day she asked him to go speak to the rabbi.

The man went to his rabbi. "Rabbi, we are too many. Our house is too small. There is too much noise. I cannot think. I cannot breathe. What do I do?"

The rabbi instructed him to go home and bring his six chickens inside his house. The man went home and did as he was told. Three days later he returned to the rabbi.

"Rabbi, we are now even more. The chickens are  pecking away. They poop on our floor. It is louder and messier."

"Go home and also bring your goat into the house," the rabbi instructed.

The man went home and brought the goat into his house. However, after three days he went running back to the rabbi.

"The goat is eating at our furniture. He rams into our legs. Things have only gotten worse."

"Go home and bring your cow into the house as well."

The man went home and brought the cow inside the house. Three days later, he went back to the rabbi once again.

"Rabbi, the house  is filthy and reeks of manure. We can barely move around all the animals. The snorts and moos and sounds of the animals breaking wind keep me awake all night. Rabbi, this is terrible."

"Go home and remove all the animals from your house."

The man went home and did as he was told yet again. Three days later he returned to the rabbi, nearly skipping the entire way, joy radiating from his face.

"Rabbi, thank you so very much. We removed the animals. Our house is clean and calm and quiet now. A man can find rest within its walls."

I love my house filled with people. I love the laughter mixed with mayhem. I love the chaos the comes with joy. And I love the time that comes just after too.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ordinary Happiness

This is a photograph of my mother, her now ubiquitous gin and tonic at her side. Gus swings in the background, his friend waiting his turn down the hill.  Just out of the frame my brother-in-law grills rosemary lemon chicken while Sena makes a salad inside. My friend Carrie is playing with our two boys as they swing and slide, speaking to one another in a language similar to English. Another friend's child, who I'm watching for the evening, sits in an azalea bush, her pink romper almost an identical shade of pink.  Molly is rocking Alamae to sleep while Tom's upstairs changing out of his suit. The record player spins, long since forgotten. The house is littered with toy trucks and abandoned glasses of water. The day has been full and messy and loud.

As I wander between conversations, I try to think about how to capture the feeling, the contentment, the happiness. I think about the reasons why I want to capture it, why I want to find my way to a computer to upload pictures and search for words. I think about the reasons why I started a blog, a word I still detest.

I've gotten better about not being jealous of people's things. I no longer spend hours coveting dresses and boots, bags and rugs and fancy rings. But I still get jealous of the lives other people lead, the fun I'm not having. I started a blog, in part, to remind myself that I am making the most of this life. I also started it as a way to keep myself accountable, a way to make sure that I keep making the most of it, that I don't get lazy and stop trying. Life is better when lived with intention. I have been lavished with blessing, but I also work to make it what I want and to appreciate what I have.  And sometimes while I watch my mother sip and stare, I think that I have hit my mark.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Priority Shift

It seems that when May came, so too did a whole different set of priorities. All the sudden my kitchen endeavors were all but abandoned, as were the plans for home improvements. Now I dream of new plants for our blooming garden and try to think of the easiest meals possible to make hastily after a day at the beach.

School work feels like a chore, and I find myself wanting to reread Free to Learn in order to justify my frequent decisions to put away books in favor of afternoons spent in sunshine.

Every time the vacuum finally finds its way across these pine boards and scattered rugs, it picks of heaps of sand and dirt, mulch and flower petals, even the occasional shark tooth that stuck itself to a leg unbeknownst to the carrier.

Last week, on one such day, a day that felt that it was meant to be lived at the water's edge, we packed our things and made a merry band, my mom, sisters, children and myself. We searched for said shark teeth, and the kids covered themselves in bay mud. I shrouded Alamae in thin white blankets, but accidentally let the rest of my kids turn pink. It was a day full of creek water and ordinary adventures.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Second Month

Oh my Miss James, these pictures don't tell the story of your sweet gummy smile, your very first trick, the small, simple development that made you feel so much more human, so much less lump. 

You like to fall asleep slumped over on the forearms of the folks you love, and you enjoy laying across my knees, staring at the ground below you. I look into your eyes and imagine that you are the child who will look the most like me. 

At night when you lay beside me, you turn on your charms, flashing your brightest grins, soaking up the moments when none of your siblings distract me from you. In the mornings, Arlo comes in to tell you about his dreams, and you patiently listen to his excited words. 

Your aunt is growing you a best friend next door, and we are so excited for her to make her way earthside and introduce you to one another.  So many adventures to be had. So many matching costumes to dress you two in.

You are a part of a great and growing tribe,  sweet Alamae James. We are all so lucky to have each other.  Never forget that. I certainly never will. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Other People's Places-- Matt and Carrie's Revisited

I like my houses like I like my friends-- a little bit weird.  Boring might never offend, but it doesn't excite either. Sometimes I think I should clear my house out and paint the walls white and give everything room to breathe, but then I think about actually getting rid of things I love, and I think about the houses I like to visit the most, the one's that are filled to the brink with gifts and memories and tales and travel, and I determine that minimalism might work for some, but it isn't really my style despite all its seeming advantages.

Matt and Carrie's house isn't for everyone, but I would so much rather find a framed photo of Willie Nelson giving me the finger when I go to the bathroom than I would a perfectly designed living room that looks like it came from the pages of Kinfolk Magazine (sorry Kinfolk, but your interiors bore me.)

I've taken pictures of their house before, but like the best / weirdest houses, I'm always discovering little bits and pieces that I amuse me. And maybe next time I'm up there I can convince her sister to let me take pictures of her house because apparently making cool spaces is a part of the family code.