Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pentecost Blog Carnival-Deadline Tomorrow!

If you are of the liturgical, Christian type, Jessica over at Homemaking Through the Church Year is hosting a Pentecost Blog Carnival. I have participated in Lenten and Advent Carnivals before and loved the chance to see how other like-minded women celebrate the seasons of the church year. Go on over to her site to submit a post, old ones are fine. The deadline is Friday.

I am overwhelmed around here with company coming (a VERY good thing), dealing with my grandma's illness, post-partum depression, and generally just not coping with life well. So, I may not get a post in...but I wanted to let you know in case you want to participate!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

No, this is not a post about Mr. Rogers, though I could write one. It's about Mr. Li or Ms. Pushkin or Dr. Garcia any other of many possible last names that don't belong in American English. Do you live near a university or college? Do you live near a place where people from different countries come to work? I do.

Actually, I live near two major universities and a huge research area, and I am surrounded by people who speak different languages, eat different foods, wear different clothes, and just do things differently. I have a lot of interesting neighbors, figuratively and literally. In fact, the folks just next door, whose children my boys play with, are from Ecuador.

Have you ever thought about what it is like to move into a new culture, to leave behind everything that is familiar to you, to have no idea how to navigate the grocery store or the doctor's office or public transportation, to be unable to understand the bank teller or the person running the checkout line? Imagine getting your PhD in a foreign language setting or taking a job where everyone speaks too quickly for you to understand. Imagine how isolated you would feel.

Imagine what it would feel like to be invited into someone's home in that culture, to have someone take the time to speak a bit more slowly and to ask about your culture and what you have left behind. Imagine how it would feel to have the hand of friendship extended to you, even if awkwardly, to be invited into someone's life and family and to go from isolated outsider to friend and neighbor.

My husband and I just finished hosting dinner for some Chinese friends of ours who used to live here but have moved to another state, a place where they are the only Chinese people. It is a small town, and he is teaching at a small college. For most of us, that would make finding friends easy, but for them, it is incredibly difficult and lonely. I know people aren't trying to isolate them or to be rude. Most people are just afraid, afraid of making cultural mistakes, afraid of not knowing what to say or how to welcome.

The truth is, hosting cross-culturally will mean mistakes. It often means making a fool of oneself. In fact, we still make mistakes with our Chinese friends, who have been to our house many times. But do you know what? People are very forgiving. They are used to living in another culture, and they expect for things to be strange and for their hosts to make cultural mistakes. They are happy to be there, in a home, being loved in a messy, awkward, wonderful way. It doesn't take a degree in InterCultural Communication to befriend a person from another culture. It just takes a willingness to look foolish, to welcome kindly, to share stories and food and warmth.

There are a lot of isolated people out there, especially new immigrants and international students. If there are some in your neck of the woods, why don't you take the chance and invite them in?

And if you happen to live in a small college town in Idaho that has only one Chinese couple, would you please have them over for dinner? No rice required. They love lasagna.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Wrong Turns and Money From Heaven

Calvin is really into praying these days. During our family prayer time, we usually ask him if there is something he would like to pray for, and he almost always has a prayer. They are sometimes serious prayers of confession and asking forgiveness, sometimes sweet, and sometimes downright funny. Here are two of his latest offerings in context.

Having just finished playing the demo of a new computer game called "Cogs," which we said we would not buy in the full version, we sat down to prayer: Dear God, please make money fall from the sky so we can buy the real game of "Cogs." Amen.

Praying for a dear friend of ours who is moving next week: Dear God, please help Uncle __ to have a safe journey to the place where he is going. And please help him not to go the wrong way on his journey. Amen.

Our response to the first prayer was a lot of laughter. (And there was a brief mention that God may not answer that prayer. I think Calvin already knew that.)

We laughed at the second prayer, too, and he was a little hurt until we explained that we were not laughing at him, just at how clever his prayer was without his even meaning it to be. May we all be safe on our journeys, dear boy, and may we find our way there without too many wrong turns.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Holding Memories

I sit here rocking you tonight little one, you who so often just want to lie in your crib to fall asleep. Rocking and singing "Jesus Loves Me" as you slowly settle into my chest, I hold you tight. I am pulling you into me, missing the connection of the womb and of those newborn days. Your legs tuck under your body as you fold into me, bringing your contentment and peace to mingle with all of my frustrations and sorrows, some real and some imagined. Life is hard, and my body, which was thrown out of balance to protect and grow you, magnifies the sorrows and difficulties as it finds its way back to normal.

I want this memory to last, your long lashes falling over sleepy blue eyes and your dark, soft hair brushing my cheek. Already, the memories of your older brothers seem lost. I can look at pictures or a video and see what they were, but I can't really remember them, not really. I remember that Calvin used to lie in our bed in the mornings and point to our eyes and noses and ears, saying the word for each one, as he practiced his vocabulary. I remember that he did it, but I don't remember him doing it. I don't remember what he looked like, what pajamas he was wearing, what his voice sounded like.

My mind is so bad at holding memories. I wonder how many beautiful moments are lost because I have not photographed them or written them down in a book or in this journal I call a blog. So often my mind is not fully in the present and the moment is lost. I can't remember your brothers as babies, I wonder what your newborn days were like, and I can't remember you PopPop, my daddy, as clearly as I once could.

This week we got the news that your great-grandmother has cancer. We have had too much of cancer in our family, too much of the ending of memories before they are made. I had hoped to record some of her memories, I still do, to pass them on to your and your brothers and cousins. But what if I fail? I, who cannot even remember you as you were a few months ago, may not be able to preserve the past that wasn't even mine, though I am a product of it.

So I hold you tightly, as I try to hold the sorrows and joys and memories, knowing that I cannot hold them all. I pray that He who has always been present holds them all, as He holds me and you. And one day, when time slows down, I trust that he will take me back to those sweet memories I cannot recall. May I not only remember them, but see them as He has, with His hand on every moment. Until then, may we both find sweet rest.

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Out of House and Home

When Calvin was born, I was set on doing things "the right way." This included, of course, making my own baby food. We delayed starting food until close to six months, and even then, he didn't get very much at first. I refused to give him that yucky rice cereal, and most everything he ate was lovingly cooked and pureed by yours truly, frozen in ice cube trays, and served only after he had had plenty of breastmilk. Calvin wasn't that interested in food, anyway, and didn't really catch onto eating until 7 or 8 months. The homemade baby food thing continued, though we did start feeding him some jarred food when we had to go out of town for two weeks.

With Hobbes, I was a little more laid back. I still made a lot of his food, but he received a good mix of homemade food, jarred food, a little rice cereal, and whatever he found on the floor from his brother. We started trying food at five months, but he didn't really catch onto the process until six or seven months.

Then came Linus. I should have known when he started watching us eat at one month old that we were in for it. I think I caved and let him lick a tortilla chip at three months. After that, he quickly zeroed in on anyone who was putting anything remotely edible in their mouth. So when he reverted to his newborn sleep habits a few weeks ago, I thought about giving him some food. I wasn't ready. After all, he wasn't even four months old yet.

Yesterday, at four and a half months, Linus decided it was time to eat, so I pulled out the rice cereal. (How the mighty have fallen...or just gotten real. No homemade food this time.) I put him in his bouncy seat and gave him a small bite, assuming he would push it out with his tongue, like most babies do at this age. Not Linus. That kid ate and ate and ate and gave a running commentary of squeals and oohs and aahs in between each bite. The same thing happened when I fed him some more at supper. The boy was in rice cereal heaven (which tastes an awful lot like cardboard, if you ask me).

Since it seemed to bother his stomach a bit, I wasn't going to feed Linus any cereal today. I figured it was good to introduce it slowly. But when I put him in his bouncy seat while I fixed his brothers' lunch, he wailed. Assuming he was tired, I told him I would get him soon and continued fixing lunch. Then I pulled out a small bowl like the one I had used for his cereal yesterday, and he suddenly stopped screaming and started squealing with excitement, tensed from head to toe.

"Would you like some cereal, Linus?"

Squeal. Squeal. Ooh. Ooh. Flailing arms.

I think that was "yes" in baby talk. He finished off two helpings, happily flailing and squealing the whole time, with almost all of the food actually making it to his mouth. I have never seen a baby this young eat like this. I think we could be in trouble. Time to stock up on the baby food.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Like Coming Home

It's been a while since we visited our local farmer's market, which is, in my opinion, the best one in the state. With the end of pregnancy and life with a newborn, I just couldn't make it a priority. But I needed some heirloom tomato plants for my garden. So this weekend I set the alarm and headed off with Hobbes and Baby Linus in tow.

Linus' first trip to the market was a feast for his eyes and mine. The sounds of people chatting with farmers, the deep greens and reds of spring lettuce and strawberries, the smells of freshly baked bread and earth and berries. I instantly felt at home and wondered why I had let the weeks go by. (We are fortunate to have a market with limited hours during the winter, so I can buy local, fresh goodness all year long.)

One of the many reasons I love the farmers market is the farm community itself. Let me tell you about our farmers, the people who lovingly grow the food my family eats.

First there are the two guys who sold us those strawberries in the picture. Young, hippy, "granola" types, just like my friends in college. I felt instantly at home chatting with them about their lovely berries. And they charmed Hobbes by telling him he could taste as many as he wanted before we bought them. How can I not love them?

Then there is the Midwestern woman who baked that yummy cream cheese braid in the picture. She owns a fantastic bakery in town and loves to share stories of her growing up years on a dairy farm as she doles out cinnamon rolls, empanadas, crossaints, and other goodies. She loves real butter and isn't ashamed to say so. And her pastries taste like it. Yum!

Of course, there is also the local, middle-aged couple with a small stand. They don't offer much, specializing in eggs, chickens, turkeys (at Thanksgiving), asparagus, honey, and homemade mustard. They send me an e-mail every week telling me what's going on with the farm animals and what they will have available on Saturday. I feel like I am a part of their farm, though I have never even seen it.

Then there is Calvin's and Hobbes' favorite, the cheese vendor who always gives them a sample, or two or three, of farmer's cheese, tells us about how happy the cows are these days, and suggests other farmers we should visit to make a recipe with the cheese.

Today I chose to buy my tomato plants from a young couple with two kids, a family run farm that I had never seen there before. They are about my age, and their homemade sign said the name of their farm and their names along with those of their kids. They have chosen a life of farming, they make their living through those of us who buy their crops and plants and homemade bread, and I can't imagine anyone I would rather support.

When I buy from that family or from any of the other almost 50 vendors at my market, I know I am supporting an important way of life, perhaps the most important. While I raise my children to appreciate the land that grows their food, I am helping these people to raise their children into the next generation of farmers.

No wonder it felt like coming home, these people are family. We share a piece of land and the fruits of its soil.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

7 Quick Takes-A Day Late

I'm not even linking this to Jen's blog this week, since I am a day late. But here are some random thoughts from TwoSquare land.

1. I am in need of a blog update, a new look, and some added features. My husband is great at this sort of thing, but I don't want to give him more busywork. Anybody have a recommendation for a good person who isn't too expensive?

2. Also on the topic of blogs, I am contemplating a new blog project but not sure if I have the time to take it on. It would involve doing some family interviews and posting stories and pieces of my Appalachian heritage, much like Tipper's site (which I love!). I have been wanting to record some family history, and this seems like a good way to do it. Any suggestions about the privacy/security issue of such an undertaking?

3. We are at the end and the beginning. My husband graduates from grad school tomorrow! After three years of full-time work and almost full-time school, he is done. And I have a husband back...and my sanity!

4. But that means we are diving full steam into support-raising and preparing to go overseas. Never a dull moment around here. Any ideas for beginning to sort out/purge our life in preparation for a move?

5. I just finished Power and the Glory by Graham Greene and participated in a book discussion group with my church. I am once again convinced that I go to church with the coolest, smartest women on the planet. I am also convinced that Catholic writers will always be dark and disturbing. But I LOVED the book.

6. The hubby and I are working our way through some of this year's Oscars flicks. We enjoyed but were underwhelmed by Slumdog Millionaire. It was too much of a conventional idea of what makes people happy, though the portrayals of life in the slums of India were very interested. The Visitor, on the other hand, was one of the most subtly brilliant films I have seen in a while. Definitely worth your time. We have The Wrestler coming next.

7. Finally, if you are wondering the outcome of this episode. I was not like Max's mother, leaving the boys a hot supper for later. They did get a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning, and were much better behaved. I think they learned a bit about the power of their words. And Calvin and I had a good talk about it as he drifted off to sleep that night. The next morning, he was about to say something about how he hated what we were having for lunch. He caught himself and said, "I think sometimes I don't think before I talk." Don't we all?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit...

...and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him "WILD THING," and Max said "I'LL EAT YOU UP!" so he was sent to bed without eating anything...

Calvin had a bad afternoon. It culminated in his saying something really horrible to me, words that I never want to hear coming out of his mouth again and that we absolutely do not say in our family. They were words that broke our relationship, or would have if he were older and really, truly knew what he meant. And so I sent him to bed. Without supper.

When his Daddy got home, he explained that the words he said were unacceptable, that they hurt Mommy, and that wishing Mommy were not in his life meant a lot of bad things, one of which was no mommy to feed and care for him. He is experiencing the result of his words, and so is Hobbes, who decided to see what would happen if he said the same thing.

I'm not sure what we did was right. I AM sure that they said things that I don't want to hear in our house.

Maybe a forest will grow in their room tonight...and maybe, if they are wake up in a few hours hungry they will find some supper waiting for them...but I doubt it will still be hot.

Can parenting get any lower than this?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Just Getting By

I'm still here, still reading your blogs, still breathing. But the sleeping, cooking, caring for kids, and such are just barely happening these days. I am emotionally and physically weary, dealing with the occasional depression that comes my way and the busy-ness of Spring. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. My husband is graduating on Sunday. Calvin is doing better, growing up into his mind and emotions. Hobbes is becoming less clingy, and Baby Linus might be turning a corner on sleeping. But not yet. Not yet.

So, until I get out from under this pile of dirty laundry, the weight of a weary body, and these heavy emotions, I am taking a break. I'll see you on the other side, hopefully in just a couple of weeks.