Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 in 10

I have been SICK, dear readers, and I feel like I have just missed out entirely on this lovely between-Christmas-and-New-Years time. I always like this time of year, when a lot of people are not working and kids are home from school and we are over the busy intensity of Christmas preparations but there is still a residual holiday mood that lingers with the pretty decorated tree that hasn't been denuded of lights and ornaments and sent away to be turned into mulch yet. Such a nice, fun, quiet time of year... Anyway, I have just entirely MISSED IT this year because of a cruel, cruel stomach bug. First Violet got it, then Grace, then me, and somehow Rob (with his immune system steeled by years spent in hospitals crawling with disease) managed to get by with just some gurgle-y stomach feelings. This is even more surprising because I just got an email from my parents telling me that they got sick too, being exposed to us during their Christmas visit. They left right as Violet was first getting sick--apparently not soon enough.

So here we are, at the end of 2009, and yet another New Year's Eve has snuck up on me. I had better reason, or at least a happier reason, last year but again I find myself surprised by the end of year and planning on nothing too exciting. At least last year I managed a glass of wine; I'm not sure if my stomach can handle even that at this point. It's been all Gatorade and saltines and plain rice today. The food has all stayed where it belongs, though, so that's a step in the right direction. And whether I feel prepared for it or not, 2010 is on its way!

I know there are those among of us who like to split hairs and insist that the decade we are in now will not end until a year from now, that we start counting at 1 and thus we have another year to live in the 2000's. Be that as it may, the rolling over of the numbers from 9 to 0 seems somewhat momentous and thus, I shall recount ten things that I have done in the last ten years (inspired by Dawn, who writes a thoughtful mothering- and adoption-oriented blog). It's been a big decade for me, full of SERIOUS life changes. January 31, 1999 found me 21 years old in New York City-- in Times Square itself, actually, watching the ball drop in person in a cold, bundled-up mass of humanity with friends from my college improv comedy troupe. I was pretty sure that the whole Y2K thing wasn't going to spell the end of the world, had recently broken up with my fiance, and had one more semester left at college. Ten years later, I will not be in quite as glamorous a location. Too bad I'm so boring now, right? The past decade has not been boring, though; that's for sure...
  1. I got a bunch of degrees and really loved getting them. I was so happy as an undergrad with my goofy friends and my physics classes, and then enjoyed my time in graduate school with my fun project and advisor and fellow graduate students.
  2. At the end of all of that, I figured out that the academic research life was in fact not the right one for me and I didn't want to be on that fancy-schmancy career track. Looking back, I was never 100% committed to that life but I feel confident that I gave it an honest try, enjoyed it while I was there (well, up until my postdoc job), and will be able to use that experience to do other, non-big-time-research stuff that is a better match for me.
  3. I learned to love sushi, and beer, and kale, all things that 21-year-old me would have insisted are yucky.
  4. I got married. I started dating Rob right at the beginning of those ten years, actually, with our first date in January 2000. Wow, we have been together for 10 years now!
  5. I had two babies, who changed who I am forever and are the sweetest funniest prettiest best babies on the planet.
  6. I lost my first grandparent, and am happy to close out these 10 years with the other three still part of my life.
  7. I changed a lot of what I put on and in my body, how I cook, what I buy, and how I live in efforts to be kind to my body and the planet and whatnot. I could certainly do better, but I'm in a more mindful place than I was 10 years ago.
  8. I (well, really "we") bought two houses and ended up regretting it both times. Stupid housing market! It is fun to be homeowners, though-- to get to paint and decorate and have a place that is your own. Not really enough fun to balance losing money on houses, of course (and losing money on our house here is not a given yet), but there you go. We are still waiting for those time machines to be able to go back and tell the 2005 and 2008 versions of ourselves to NOT BUY A HOUSE.
  9. I was part of the very biggest church I have ever attended and the very smallest church I have ever attended. One felt much more like home than the other, but both experiences have taught me things about myself and this community we call Christianity.
  10. I moved away from Texas for the first time and then back. It's been tough being back in a lot of ways, but living so much of my life here has definitely had a big impact on who I am and how I view the world.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Has Come

Merry Christmas
Photography and card design by Kathy Krey

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Year of Violet

One Year of Violet

One year ago today I went to the hospital early in the morning having a few contractions, and a few hours later I was here, holding a tiny minutes-old Violet. She has been here out in the world for a whole year, a whole set of seasons, one whole trip around the Sun. I feel bowled over with love for the tiny floppy creature in our video who moved her little hands like she was still living underwater, but then I look down at the floor by my chair right now and I see this sociable, laughing baby girl with her wide-open chocolate eyes and round pink cheeks and hair just getting long enough to curl and I feel so happy for me-in-the-video because I get to know and mother this new person we have just met.

This year has gone blindingly fast in many ways, much faster than Grace's first year, but it has been a beautiful, amazing year as we've watched Violet emerge from the insularity of newborn life into the crawling, playing, laughing one-year-old she is today. She loves cheese and remotes and climbing up stairs and picking up microscopic bits of detritus from the floor, and she dislikes having her diaper changed and riding in the car and bonking her head. She loves new physical objects she's never seen before and enjoys emptying bins of toys. She thinks riding in the grocery cart is one of the super funniest things ever, although she doesn't do it too often, usually napping in the sling or Ergo while Grace rides around. Drinking from a cup is also highly entertaining, although more for recreational than thirst-quenching purposes. She is such a busy baby, with such engrossing things to do, and she crawls and climbs expertly (and quickly). She finally seems like she is able to handle Grace's overenthusiastic affection with a bit more equanimity; she is now only infrequently terrified and even sometimes thinks she is hilarious. She says "mama" and "uh oh", but also has a whole repertoire of funny closed-mouth vocalizing where she mimics the rhythms of conversation without actually talking. When she nurses, she likes to reach up and tangle her little chubby fingers into my hair. Rob and I have commented how just in the past few weeks, she has blossomed into new levels of cheery, plump gorgeousness and smiles-- oh, the smiles...

Happy birthday, beautiful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Birthday Boy

Today is Robert's birthday-- hooray! He was nearly a Christmas baby, as was Violet, and I just love his reflection on babies and Christmas. His birthday makes me think about how fortunate I am that he is here in the world and that he is who he is. We're going to have chocolate mousse cake and fettuccine alfredo, which seems an indulgent but not quite adequate celebration somehow. That picture is from almost 10 years ago in the first several months of us dating; I can't believe that we've been together for almost a third of our lives. From the beginning of our relationship, I've always felt that I can be more myself, more the "real me", with Rob than with anybody else I've known. (That would explain why we're talking on our shoe phones, I think.) The world is lucky to have him, and so am I.

Many happy returns of the day, Rob

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Visitors from the West

Papa & Violet

Rob's parents left yesterday to head back to California after their December visit to see us. We had such a nice quiet time with them, cooking at home and going to the playground and reading books and going out to eat. And raking the leaves! Somehow we are never inspired to rake our leaves unless family is involved; last autumn's pile did not get raked until January when my parents came over in Violet's early days to clean the house and take care of us and my dad and Rob did it. This year, the leaves sat on the ground until Rob's dad arrived and the two of them spent a good chunk of Saturday working in the yard. I had grown so accustomed to our messy front yard that it is still a pleasant little shock every time I walk up to our door. We played games every evening after the girls went to bed and showed Rob's parents around Grace's little preschool and jaunted down to the med school for lunch a few days when Rob had to work. For our last lunch, we went to a little pharmacy/soda shop that was utterly charming. So fun!

Rob's parents had gotten some bad news right before they departed their home to come visit us. Rob's dad had cancer a few years ago and although they thought they had gotten all of it at the time, they have just learned that it spread to a lymph node. They think it is just a single lymph node and that they can do surgery to remove it (both goods things to hear) but it is still a scary and difficult time. Boy, Rob's parents sure have had a rough year health-wise-- his mom had cancer this past summer, then faux-cancer in the fall, and now this recurrence of his dad's cancer. Enough with the cancer already! It makes me want to feed Rob a super-healthy, all-antioxidant diet or something. Anyway, serious health issues have made us realize what a gift it is to have time with family and to get to enjoy the presence of these people we love so much. We are so glad they came.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stars of Royal Beauty Bright

Ooooooo, exciting lights!

Our dog Abbey has very intense feelings about lights of the flashlight, laser pointer, reflection variety. Not being privy to the inner workings of her mind, we aren't entirely sure whether those intense feelings are deep love or obsessive hatred, but lights certainly get her attention and make her quiver with fixation. Every year when we get Christmas lights out and start to string them on the tree, she barrels in to the middle of things and stares them down, somehow mysteriously compelled by their twinkly glow. See, here's last year's picture.

Actually, this year her reaction to the Christmas lights was a bit slower, a bit more doddering. Looking at that picture from last year makes me realize how much she has aged in the past year. Abbey is 9 years old now, and is of a breed that lives an average of 8-10 years. Up until a few months ago, I would have said she seemed like herself and was doing great, but lately she has just been aging before our eyes, slowing down and losing muscle tone in her face (crazy droopy eyes!) and seeming really old. She is such a sweet good dog still; I hope she enjoys a very long winter of her life.

She wasn't the only one to play with the lights. Every year while putting up the tree, from sometime in my early teens, I like to take pictures all tangled up in the Christmas lights. I have them with my sister in high school (sadly not digital, of course), as a newlywed with Rob, pregnant, and now, I get to inflict my will upon my innocent children. BWA HA HA HA. Being a parent is awesome.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Time to trim the tree

Hooray, it's Christmastime! Was I feeling all full of angst and weltschmerz a mere week and a half ago? Now we are listening to Christmas music and soon I intend to address Christmas cards and we have our tree up and we are even having a gorgeous cold snap-- I am full of Christmas cheer, in other words. This has happened to me for several years now, and I think the problem is that the very first harbingers of the Christmas season are the commercials and Black Friday and the consumerism, and ugly black harbingers they are. But then we get into the actual holiday season and all the things I love about Christmas and Advent and my gloom passes.

Sweet girls

This past weekend, we brought our house firmly into Christmas mode by putting up our tree. I grew up with artificial trees because some of my family is very allergy prone, so there is still a certain level of novelty and daring to a real Christmas tree for me. The smell, the earthiness, the intense prickly green of the needles... There is a wonderful, magical strangeness to this syncretistic pagan tradition. We cut down a TREE and bring the whole thing into our HOUSE? Crazy.

Crazy beautiful.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Things I Have Tried to Explain to Grace This Week

  • hide-and-seek
  • Simon-says
  • that the language we speak is English
  • the phases of the Moon
  • an Advent calendar
  • the length of a year, a month, a week
  • headlights and turn signals on the car
  • death
I've had varying levels of success. I think she is most clear on the point of the Advent calendar; as for most unclear, I believe it is a tie between Simon-says and death.