Friday, July 18, 2014

Comfortable. Safe. Alive.

This is another hard post to write. I'm actually kind of glad to be writing it, though, because now that I've written the church posts and this one, I think it'll be a weight off my chest.

It's hard because honestly it was hard for me to even admit to myself I felt these things. This was at least a month ago and I had been doing some metacognition- thinking about thinking- involving my feelings on the city. I finally was able to boil it down to three things and the night that I told Peyton I was in tears. Partly, I think I was relieved to be able to finally articulate it in a concise way. But partly I was terrified to be honest with myself about how much I love this place. What did that mean for our future? [That is a whole other post, but I'll briefly touch on it at the end.]

But part of it is hard because I don't want to be disloyal to the South. I love the South so, so very much. It still has, and will always have, a huge chunk of my heart. There relationships there that we could never replace. There are, I've realized recently, experiences there that we could never replicate elsewhere. And there's a culture there that is truly ineffable. Like the city, I so adore the place and the peoples of the South. Kudzu country is a beloved land and I never want to dishonor or demean it.

Anyway, with the disclaimer out of the way, here's why I feel such a strong adoration for this place....

I feel more comfortable here. I know I say it a lot but I love our 800 square foot space. I think two hundred square feet for each of us really must be the magic number =) I like how our clothes fit in the closets because I was careful to bring just my favorites (i.e. the things I actually wear). I like how the kids each have a bowl they eat dry cereal out of in the morning and then they each have a divided plate that they use for lunch. I hand wash it and they use it for dinner. I wash it again after they eat and it's ready for the next day. Like literally, they use two plates and two bowls (and utensils and a few cups when necessary). It's so simple and so nice not to have a cabinet overflowing with sippy cups and plastic plates.

More than that, I love our pared down schedule. We are pretty much only doing things we like to do. I was emailing with a friend this week and it helped me to try to articulate what I like about our pace and our way of living here.

 I think a lot of it has to Peyton's schedule more than mine and the kids'. Neither of us thought it would be such a big deal for him not to be a manager at the pharmacy but it's been HUGE. There's just a lot less he's responsible for at his store, so when he leaves he's really done with work- no making schedules, training techs, going in to interview somebody on his day off, ect. And being in charge effected his stress level a lot more than either of us realized. Also, he's not doing Pharmacy Association stuff and picking up extra weekends and that kind of thing up here, which makes a difference. 

I think we also just tried really hard here to only do things we care about. When we get home, I'm going to make sure that the volunteer stuff I do are things I'm passionate about, even if it's more inconvenient. Going to the South Bronx once a week showed me that it's worth it. 

The last big difference is Peyton's work schedule. I know a lot of people would hate it and I thought I might myself. But for some reason it's easier for me to compartmentalize things. I love that on the days he's off we have a totally different schedule. And honestly, I love my days at home with the kids, mostly. On the days he's off, I don't think about blogging or anything until the kids are in bed for the night. I know I'm probably not going to take a nap or read blogs or whatever else I want to do to relax. And I know we'll probably walk a lot and I'll be really tired. On the days he works, it's a long day by myself with the kids but I try to get ALL of Annie's school done and I get to just relax some during naptime. To me, it's easier splitting it up that way than when he was going into work at eleven. And I love that his schedule is more concrete. It's easier for me to keep up with and it's predictable. 

I partly think my perspective has changed, too. I think this experience has sort of helped me to train myself to look for the good in situations (when that is NOT my natural inclination). I just started out doing that and it's become (a little!) more natural. Peyton was saying just today that he feels like I've gotten a lot more laid back, too. Which, we all know I'm SUPER HIGH STRUNG. But it works both ways, I think he's gotten to where he is a lot more appreciative of me and he's more likely to affirm and validate me in things. 

All that to say, I'm more comfortable with my home and with my calendar than I think I've ever been. 

I feel more safe here. Wait a minute- safer than in the suburbs in the 'Sip? Well, not like you're thinking.

I feel safer to be myself, I guess. Or to explore what that means. Sometimes people mention that it must be hard living in such a different environment. One time a friend asked me if it was hard to live in a more liberal environment, in regards to our faith- like was it hard to not be around more conservative, like-minded Christians? First of all, no doubt it's a largely secular urban environment. But one thing I told my friend- who actually doesn't live in the South- is that in a way, that's sort of refreshing. Because the people that are at church on Sunday? Are there because they want to be. People are just so authentic. Secondly, it's not like everyone here is a raging radical liberal. We've found friends who are faithful believers in orthodox doctrine. We're not all up here worshiping our spirit animals or watching Oprah to get tips on living a faithful life. Lastly, and this is what I was trying to get to, I think I feel safer here to share some of our opinions. Like, we feel more comfortable talking about how for us being pro-life means being against drone warfare. Or how we really feel more passionate about fighting poverty than fighting marriage amendments. I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with us, but I feel more at ease putting those things on the table. Especially with people who are casual friends or acquaintances.

I've seen this in other areas, as well. Someone also asked me about how differently people parent here. And it's interesting to watch. I think because there are SO many different styles- from very strict Orthodox Jewish families to people who don't believe in punitive consequences at all- there's a very live and let live mentality. Nobody cares if Graves is fully potty trained. Several times, at church and other things, I've mentioned it in an embarrassed way. And instead of a good natured scolding and "He is THREE, Mom!" people say it doesn't matter and/or encourage me with stories about their little boys taking forever. Literally no one here cares if my son poops in his pants and it's so refreshing. And nobody gives a damn if he sleeps with his pacifier. The other day we were at the park and I noticed the environment. There was a mom breastfeeding in a very casual way. And half the kids playing in the sprinkler had on their skivies. Now, I'm not going to let my kids run around in their underwear likes it's our backyard, but it was cool to me that there's that kind of freedom and liberty to parent how you see fit.

The last thing is kids' behavior. It's no big secret that I spent some of my earlier parenting days, especially when Graves was newly fresh, way overly self-conscious. So much so that it was really anxiety inducing and almost debilitating at times. That's not everyone in Mississippi's fault at all, a LOT of that is one me, but I do think living in a different culture has helped me immensely. I think people here expect children to be children more. They don't necessarily coddle them, but I think there is more grace for hard days and and such. There's also not so much a "children should be seen and not heard" type thing. I mean we take wild Graves to The Met, for crying out loud. We also take him to church, something I'm not sure I'd be brave enough for at home.

Lastly, I feel more alive here. This is the hardest one to try to pin down and articulate. I'm not sure I even can put words to it. It's not about the big, exciting NEW!YORK!CITY! things. It's really not. It's in the every day.I just feel so much vibrancy all around me. The colors seem brighter, the sounds louder, the smells stronger. And for some reason, this makes me feel alive. I guess when I see and feel and hear and smell humanity more strongly, I feel more human myself. I feel like I'm part of an amazing story that is much, much bigger than myself.

We're moving home. We don't know when exactly, but we are. There's a plethora of reasons and as I said, that's a post for another day. But I'm going to take as much of this comfort, these safe feelings, and this very real experience of knowing I'm alive with me as I can. I'm going to focus on maintaining a home and a lifestyle that is simple and happy. I'm going to surround myself with people who make me feel safe, I'm going to do my best to be honest when people don't, and I'm going to fight the insecurity within myself that is so often my own issue. I'm going to force myself to see a vibrant humanity- even if it's a little harder with vehicles and single family homes and such- and remind myself that I'm part of it, part of an amazing story that is much, much bigger than myself.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Letter to (Three Year and Three Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves, 

You are a delight. As always. So much of what you are and do makes me laugh. At times, you frustrate me to no end. But then there's always this- your precious smile, your sweet voice, your charm and your affection for all of us, even on our very worst days. 

I've said for a long time that you were charming. Maybe a better word is charismatic. You have such a personality and your smile is indescribable. 

More and more, you make me laugh. Most of the time it's unintentional. But you also love to tease in a way your sister never really has. This is a trait you most certainly got from your goofy papa. 

You are a MESS- figuratively and literally. You told me the other morning that "We're spitting our milk on our Cheerios and eating them". Of course you were. Because Mean Momma still only lets you have dry cereal. [And if you think that's disgusting, you tell me constantly "I like gross things" and that you'll be a "construction man" when you grows up because they are allowed to pick their nose and eat their boogers.]

Related to eating: you also told Papa that "I just need my high chair back, Papa. So I don't run around while I'm eating." Trying to help you learn a bit of self-control. And it's maybe THE HARDEST JOB OF MY LIFE. 

Related to "gross things": you love to make little collections of used water balloons and plastic and other trash at the playground. Lovely how it's like pulling teeth to get you to pick up a few toys in your own bedroom but you're perfectly happy to do a thorough sweep of all the trash at the city park. 

You are going through a phase where you like to play by yourself rather than other children. When we are at the park, Annie is quick to find a friend. You like to poke around in the dirt alone, play with her, or run over and sweetly rest your head on my leg. 

You are, as you've always been, such an affectionate child. Papa took Annie to the first day of dance camp a few weeks ago and I was home with you. I was trying to fold up the sofa and you grabbed the fitted she and said "wrap me up and hold me in your hands". Sweet little baby boy.

Sometimes, though, you don't like to be touched. When you're in the carrier and I start rubbing your back you like it about half the time and half the time you say "Keep your hands to yourself, Momma!"

You went to Creative Arts Camp at Calvary-Saint George's last month and were in the littlest class- the "sheep". I can't stop thinking about how one of your teachers from camp described you- she said you were one of the most calm, easiest kids. That you stayed in your seat for long periods and was very focused and even when they could get up and play with toys you wanted stay in your seat and talk to a teacher. 

She did say you was pretty stubborn. They had to take you in the hall because you was crying so hard at first and that cleared up quickly, but you didn't NOT want to go back in the room. This was the conversation:
"Teacher: "Baby Graves, let's go back in so we can play and have fun."
Graves: "I play with you out here."
T: "There aren't any toys or anything fun to play with out here."
G: "We can go up and down these stairs."
T: "That's dangerous. We're not doing that."
G: "You hold my hand and I'll be safe."
[You finally wandered in twenty minutes later on your own accord when another kid came out to use the potty.]
That is much more stubborn than I'm used to and way more logical than I give you credit for. Literally everything above sounds like she was describing your sister. 
I feel like I have Annie's personality down (it did take me awhile, but I think it's also easier to understand her temperament/predict her behavior because we're so similar), but you confound me. Most every day.

One thing it does do is make me wonder and wish about a school setting for you. If we were at home, you might very well be doing the same two day a week homeschool program we did with Annie when she was three and four. I wonder how you'd succeed (and struggle) in that environment.

I have been noticing that you are getting more stubborn. you would not help me and Annie clean up their room this morning. I spoke to you sternly, put you in time out, and told you that'd you'd have to clean up by yourself while Annie started lunch (usually the best strategy). NOTHING worked. Annie even had one of her BIG TALKS with you in which she said "This is just like Cinderella. The ugly stepsisters made her do all the work. You don't want to be an ugly step sister, DO YOU, BUD?" That was the most redeeming thing of the whole episode because it was so hilarious.

You are funny in the way you express things now. We were running late for Annie's dance class (Papa wasn't supposed to be working today, but he was). We missed the train and I was sweating so bad pulling Annie along with you in the carrier. I was actually in a pretty good mood, though. But you all of a sudden says "We all so fus-trated!" I asked you why and you said "Because Papa not here." You seemed less frustrated once that we made it to the dance center and I let you air out your hot little feet.

You have such a great imagination, just like your sister! The other day you put MonkMonk in her pink backpack and said you were her papa and you were taking her to an "art festival" in her "carrier". 

You are so funny. So sweet. So endearing. My life is so much more complete because of the sheer joy you bring to it. 

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your jon jon is a 3T. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weekly Smorgasbord

Here's this week's links. Not a huge list, but some good ones!

On Fear and Anxiety:
Posted: 14 Jul 2014 11:52 PM PDT
""It's really your ugly pride that makes you afraid. Just bow in humility — and you'll rise up in courage." His voice comes gentle, immediately, a grace caress for the angst-twisted. I exhale this long slow release. Bow in humility … I whisper that comfort to the pale face reflected in the mirror. Is it pride and appearances that box our lives up small and afraid? Who dares explore, risk, attempt, when terrified to play the fool?" 

This is such an interesting perspective, one I've not given much thought to. I do think some of the "not getting out" for me can totally be boiled down to pride. Sure some of it is just that it takes to much energy and there's a side of me that's an introvert and loves home. But part of it? Is this. When someone criticized me about my kid not wearing a hat when he was an infant and when someone else did the same about his inadequate Winter attire up here, I thought both times "This is why I HATE getting out". A couple of years ago, I would never take the kids in the double stroller into a department store because I was so scared of what they would do and subsequently what people would say. And here, one of the things I hated most about the bus and the train was the fear I had every time that someone would say "You really don't look like you're handling this well. You just need to stay home". 

Guys? Pride and appearances.
On the South:
Posted: 14 Jul 2014 11:54 PM PDT
Perhaps it's time we recognize that being a pretentious jerk is unhelpful and does nothing to actually alleviate poverty.
Posted: 14 Jul 2014 11:49 PM PDT
This is beautiful. She has an hour long commute and has worked at The Elite for twenty years. And she knows 90% of her customers by name.

On Kids and Technology:
Posted: 14 Jul 2014 11:50 PM PDT
"We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He'd never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android." Amazing!
On Insurance and Breast Pumps:
Posted: 14 Jul 2014 11:48 PM PDT
Y'all, a single manual breast pump is pretty insufficient for most women who work outside the home. Would you consider signing this petition?

On Cool Things to Do with Toys:
Posted: 15 Jul 2014 05:33 PM PDT
Gotta love creative people and legos.


Letter to (Three Year and Three Month Old) Ann Peyton

Dear Ann Peyton, 

Summer is in full swing in Brookyln and you are quite enjoying it. You've been to the public pool and we visit the sprinkler area of the park at least a few times a week. We've gone to street fairs and festivals and farmer's markets. You seem to be enjoying it all. 

We found a tire swing at a new park and you loved it so much. It reminded me of the one Mickey rigged up when Cookie and I were little. I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood and I hope these in the city are special ones for you. 

You are tentative about the pool. You want me to by very close before you jump and you really aren't interested in kicking or blowing bubbles so much as letting someone hold you on their hip in the water. We're a little late on the game this Summer, but next Summer the goal is to make a swimmer out of you. It will be significantly easier if we're back in Mississippi. 

We have a lot of fun around the city, but the days Papa works are mostly days at home for us. You are so creative and eager to use your imagination. 

One of yours and Graves's favorite things to play is "circus". Awhile back, you created a bunch of signs alerting where the acrobats get dressed and where the exit is (our front door). You  also created signage for yours and Graves's room to remind Graves not to climb on the toy cabinet or get in his window.

[As an interesting aside I had cautioned Graves about not standing in the window and he said "I not stand in the window and fall out and die". Then you told me that you've been repeating this to him a lot and explained to him what dying is ("you lay on the ground and don't get up:). Glad you were able to drive the point home for us. You two balance each other well- your intensity and his impulsiveness seem to work well together.

I'm always amazed at how much you love to "play pretend". You guys have plenty of toys, but more often than not they're of little interest except as they aid in your imaginative play. 

One afternoon in your room you told me. "Let's play car. You're the grandma. You ride in the back with the babies. We're going to the beach. No, Oxford. In Mississippi that night we went to Mary Milton's Papa told me the bad weather was in OXFORD. That's Ole Miss. Which is where football is." Seeing my surprise at the recollections you told me "I'm smart." [The last football game we went to was when she was two.] Every day, you and your brother manage to show me that you're both amazing and challenging in totally different ways.

You also love to craft. My favorite craft in recent weeks was when you had me cut some small hearts out of little squares of paper you had cut out. You then taped them together and made them into little glasses. You attached them to your crown (another project) and wore them around for a couple of days. 

  • We also do school during naptime on the days Papa works. We're a bit over halfway through with your first phonics book and you are READING REAL WORDS. You know you're in a sweet spot when your five year old reads for the first time in the afternoon and asks to be rocked that night. I absolutely love the stage that you're in. 
Another day our creative endeavor of the day included making Baby Kitty a cloth diaper with a baby wipe and tape. You then put her in your fuzzy pink backpack and proclaimed it was her "carrier". 

I put one of those hooded (baby) bath towels on you after a bath one night- it was a duck. When I came in your room you were sitting on the plastic eggs from your play kitchen, totally nake, quacking loudly and saying you were hatching them. When you got tired of that you decided you would be a penguin and demanded Graves come sit on them because we recently learned that's part of the job description for papa penguins.

Subway maps are your favorite thing. I can't wait to tell you later that you learned to read a complex little grid before you learned to read English. You notice trains and maps and signs a lot. Graves notices people and bodies more. You guys are fascinating in what you observe. 

That said, you notice people and bodies some. We had to change Graves's diaper in a discrete area of the park and you followed us and started drawing the procedure w/ chalk. You drew everything and then put an "x" through it and said "I drew his penis too big". 

You are so much like me, I keep discovering. You know the little starchy things that can kind of congeal on pasta in the fridge? You found it the other night and freaked. I offered to put cheese on your spaghetti and you said "There's nothing you can do that will make me want to eat this now". Also, you got so irritated when I tried to rush you when you were trying to tear off the toilet paper along the perforated seam. Basically, you're me.

And a lot of time you think you're the momma, I'm afraid. You told me a few weeks ago: "I don't think "we" should do potty training this way anymore. It shouldn't be a treat every time, it should be ONE treat at the end of the day if he doesn't have any accidents. A treat every time is NOT HEALTHY". [By the way, it's a TINY cookie and he always, ALWAYS splits it with you.

It's amazing to me all the things you process and understand. The other day you undressed your little bear from the waist up and said "Momma bear isn't wearing a shirt. She looks like she's from a different culture." Papa had discussed this at the Natural History Museum with you and Graves when they saw women represented in some of the exhibits not wearing tops. I asked what culture Momma Bear was from and you said "One of those not wearing clothes cultures."

A different day you told me "When I grow up, I'm going to be a momma-veterinarian. And I'm sure the papa will stay at home with the babies." "The papa?"  I asked. "My husband!", you exclaimed. Well then, Little Miss Egalitarian. I will say that, as hard as it is in away because it means that I'm losing control, I'm so glad you are beginning to see that the world is bigger than our little household and our very own culture. 

We are watching you grow in faith and experience it in a whole new way. Graves was making slurping sounds and saying "I just drink your blood" one day. I (horrified) asked him where he learned that and was totally thinking zombies. You told me "I'm sure he's thinking about the Passover". Still being the dense mom I am, I said "the blood on the DOOR?" And you said "No! The Passover with Jesus. He told his friends about drinking his blood". [I'm pretty sure that between the cultural identification of Momma Bear and the liturgical sentiments you made papa very proud that day.]

We have a children's Bible that talks about Jesus taking away people's "badness" and you told me one night that you knew another word for badness and I asked you what it was. You said "sin" and I asked you how it was taken away and you said "Jesus on the cross did it". I'm so, so happy to watch these connections happen. It is one of the great joys of my life to watch, in tiny increments, as you begin to understand the Gospel. 

You and Graves went to Creative Arts Camp at Calvary-Saint George's and you were so excited. I told you before it that we were going to be talking about Joseph and you had me clarify "Joseph, Jesus's papa or Joseph and the brothers". You found the story in one of your little Bibles and said "This is the Joseph we're going to learn about tomorrow!".

I've stopped with the smocked dresses EVERY Sunday. You still love them, but honestly you have some cute dresses that are really too dressy for every day wear and I didn't want you to miss them. I'm not going to lie, it was HARD to let that go. 

A couple of times Papa has taken Graves to church early to watch children while people set up. We've had a great time taking the bus together and walking hand and hand just us. I've loved those moments with just you at my side. 

Truthfully, I love most every moment with you by my side. There are arguments and you've gotten so stubborn lately and sometimes your endless stream of questions is exhausting, but these are the best days of my life and your are a huge contributer to that. I love you so much, my sweet girl.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your dress is a 4T. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekly Happenings Post #276 (July 7-13)-- Hard Workin' Papa

Graves was legit asleep (and had been sucking on his jon jon, I swear he's the most orally fixated three year old ever). Annie was pretending. And look at Peyton's farmer's tan. Ha! 

Last week was a little unusual because Peyton worked every single weekday. I know that's most people's normal, but he works thirteen hours shifts (and has an about forty five minute commute each way). So those are long days- for him and me. We decided it would be good for him to have the extra hours so we could have some extra money for our four plane tickets home for Cookie's wedding in October (we decided not to drive either way). Anyway, the week was longer and harder than I expected. I had told myself I did it for a month at home, but the fact is I had a HUGE support group for that. That in itself made the week harder- I just felt homesick a whole lot- for my parents, for Carrie, for an easier reality where I could make low key plans on all those days and nights by myself. 

But overall, it worked out well. We got in a good bit of school, we went to the playground four out of five days, and Graves got back on his nap routine (he'd been skipping a lot since Creative Arts Camp and I was about ready to concede that he was done, although I was still going to enforce "rest time"). I also blogged more than I have in a long time and wrote a couple of posts I've really been wanting to do. I feel like we used the time as best we could have! 

The kids slept super late on Monday. I heard them wake up around nine and then they called me about half an hour later. I went ahead and got up at that point and didn't snooze during their breakfast =) While they ate, I scooped liter and straightened and got on the computer a bit. I watched Sesame Street with them and then got my bath and folded up the bed. I had breakfast and did a couple of other things on the computer and finished doing my lesson plans for that day.

We did their devotion and catechism, read a little and played, and then cleaned up their room. I fixed them lunch and put Graves down to rest. Annie crafted and I ate lunch and uploaded pictures and read some blogs and got on Twitter. I did school with Annie after that and then we got Graves and headed to the playground.
Annie read her first book!

Graves's "collection"- lovely how it's like pulling teeth to get him to pick up a few toys in his own bedroom but he's perfectly happy to do a thorough sweep of all the trash at the city park.

We got home and I fixed them supper and then we read our Five in a Row book and did a little activity. I bathed them and read to them some more and then put them down. I worked on a post and Peyton got home. We ate and watched the news and I read some more blogs and made my list for the next day. I could NOT go to sleep. I tried, but I had the worst insomnia. I ended up finally going to sleep at like FOUR.

Tuesday was a little different. Peyton left for work and Graves got up and snuggled with me. Then I put him back in his room and he and AP ate breakfast while I got ready because Annie had dance camp. I got them ready and we hurried, but ended up missing the train. We made it and were a tiny bit late. I just read and played with Graves during the class.
We were hurrying and I was sweating so bad pulling Annie along with Graves in the carrier. I was actually in a pretty good mood, though. But Graves all of a sudden says "We all so fus-trated!" I asked him why and he said "Because Papa not here." He seemed less frustrated once we made it to the dance center and I let him air out his hot little feet.

We came home and the kids had lunch and I did dishes and then put Graves down. He fell right asleep and took a long nap. I got on the computer, ate lunch, took a nap, and did school with Annie. Graves got up and I started a post while they watched their show for the day. I started supper and we cleaned up their room and went through some of Annie's artwork in the kitchen. The kids ate and then we did our Five in a Row book, devotion and catechism, and Graves's critical thinking. I got them ready for bed and we read some more and then I got on the computer and worked on a post. Peyton got home and we ate dinner and I talked to my mom.

Peyton was, of course, working again on Wednesday. The kids got up early and I fixed them breakfast and then we watched a show.
He told Peyton the other day "I just need my high chair back, Papa. So I don't run around while I'm eating." Trying to help him learn a bit of self-control.

They played and I took a bath, finished my school plans for the day, ate breakfast and got on the computer, folded up the bed and scooped liter. I played with them for a bit and we did their devotion and catechism and the cleaned up their room.
I really love the fact that Graves is typically all boy. Because then we have moments like this.Haha! In the interest of full disclosure, he's not just wearing the beloved pink back pack just for the heck of it. He's MonkMonk's Papa and he's taking her to an art festival in her carrier. The pony tail? Just for the heck of it.

I fixed them lunch and then I put Graves down. He actually fell asleep and I got on the computer and ate lunch and read some.
Sometimes Annie likes to photograph the cat and then edit in hair and jewelry. Obviously. 

I did school with Annie and when Graves got up we headed to the playground. We played in the sprinkler and on the playground and then came home. I fixed them supper and we read our Five In a Row book and did Graves's critical thinking and then the guy who used to live in our apartment came by to pick up a package that came here. He's super nice and we talked a bit and then I bathed the kids and read to them.
We were reading and I told Annie that Jesus is with us during the "storms" of life and explained to her that that means the hard things. "What are some hard things, Momma?" "Well, when you had that parking garage incident and were so upset for several weeks. That was hard and I asked Jesus to help you with those feelings." "Anything else hard?" "Well, sometimes I really miss Mickey and Minnie a lot." "Oh....because they *your* momma and papa?" Yep.

 I put them to bed and read blogs a bit. Peyton got home and we ate and watched the news. I worked on a post for the next day and got on Facebook and went to bed.

Thursday was a nice day. The kids slept really late and we got off to a good start with breakfast. I ended up getting up and doing a few things and then I laid back down to watch the kids shows with them. After that, I put them in their room and did my morning chores and took my bath. They were having a hard time and it took me longer than usual to get anything done. I played with them for awhile and then we did the catechism and their devotion and picked up toys. It was late by the time we got to lunch and I did dishes and then put Graves down. I figured he wouldn't nap, but he fell asleep. I ate my lunch and got on the computer and did school with Annie.
It was "n" day so we emailed our favorite (n)urse. 

He got up and we got ready for the park. The sprinklers were turned off because it was six o'clock, but we enjoyed the playground.
I could get used to it. 

Cracks me up. I mean he only weighs like five pounds less than her.

We learned a few plurals today and Annie wanted to share her knowledge with the playground. (Dogs) 

During naptime, Annie had asked me to help her make a fan  then she made a little handle for it. No idea where she got this. She's a Mississippi girl!

Although here she looks Brooklyn born and bred.

We came home and read our Five in a Row book and I did critical thinking stuff with Graves. The kids ate supper and then we Facetimed with Mickey and Minnie. I read to them and put them to bed and then I started a little sewing project. I finished up and Peyton got home. We talked and I emailed a friend and then ate something and went to bed.

Friday was our last day without Peyton. The kids got up and I fixed them breakfast and we watched Sesame Street. I got my bath and did my morning chores and got on the computer for a bit and had my breakfast. We played in their room a good bit and did their devotion and catechism. We picked up toys and I fixed them lunch. After they ate, I put Graves down. Another good nap! I French braided Annie's hair and ate my lunch and read some blogs and then Annie and I did school (phonics, critical thinking, and some read aloud time) and I read some. Graves got up and we got ready and headed to the playground. We stayed until almost seven and then came home for dinner and baths. I put them to bed and got on the computer. Peyton got home and we talked and tried to finish a movie but I fell asleep.
I had to let my nose piercing grow back because of a keloid and Annie asked me "Momma, where your stud?". I told Minnie about it because I thought it was so funny and she literally started screaming into the phone. Anybody remember the scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie's momma calls his friend's momma to report that he learned a dirty word from her son and she goes beserk and then beats the crap out of her kid? Similar sitch with Min on the other end of the line. "MY BABY! TALKING ABOUT YOUR STUD! OH, THANK GOD ITS GONE!". We are a people given to intense emotion.

We had a great day Saturday. I slept late and Peyton cooked pancakes with the kids. We were going to go to something at the Brooklyn Historical Society, but it turns out they don't have it in the Summer. We had a slow morning and I actually got frustrated as Peyton and I tried to figure out what to do. We ended up going to the library and dropping off books and then playing in Prospect Park. We had brought a kite (they wasn't much wind) and a beach ball (super fun times) and we played and had a snack lunch and then walked on a nature trail a bit.
our mini picnic!

We found some mint tea (sweetened with maple syrup) at the farmers' market. So good!

We ended up at the Lefferts Historic House- an old home/museum. We had a great time and learned a lot.
Wigwam at Lefferts House

Learning to spin yarn!

I was SO hungry after that. We headed home and stopped at The Smoke Joint in Fort Greene.
Nearly a year ago- last August- Peyton and I sat at these outdoor tables under the sign and looked out, a bit enchanted, at the area of sectioned off street with tables and trees; the gorgeous architecture; and the lively and charming people who passed by. That day, we had taken our first breaths in Kings County. We had been to the Brooklyn Flea and the Farmers' Market at Fort Greene Park. We tentatively said we very much loved it. And little did we know, it was the slow beginning of giving our hearts to a place. It was good to be back there, sitting in the street and eating BBQ, with the other two people I love most in the world.

 On the way home, we heard some music at Fort Greene Park and we stopped and listened to the band a bit and then came home. Peyton actually gave the kids showers- we've never done that before and I think he basically ended up in there with them. He got them to bed and I worked on laundry and cleaned up the kitchen and unpacked our junk from the day. I took a shower and ironed clothes and went to bed.

Sunday was fun and busy. Peyton got up and left early to help watch kids while people set up. He woke me up to help him get Graves ready at the last minute. I went back to sleep and then got ready (Annie was up and I let her eat breakfast in her room). We got to the bus stop a few minutes early and right before we got there we saw the bus leave. UGH. I fooled around trying to figure out a new bus route and got frustrated. We walked a block or so, waited about ten minutes, and then I fold Annie we were just going home because it started to rain. She cried and as we started home we saw the B69- the bus we had tried to catch. It had been about twenty minutes so it was time for it again! We made it to church and I was so glad it worked out because our friend Matt was preaching and he did a wonderful job.
Everybody's smilin'...sunshine day!

She said "I'm farmer Annie and he's my cow that got away".

We decided to walk home with the guys even though I didn't have my comfy shoes. We stopped at Lunitas and tried it for the first time. It was GREAT and really reasonable.

We came home and I did a few things while the kids played and Peyton booked my mom a flight to come visit. We took both kids' monthly pictures.

 I emailed a friend and messaged someone on FB and then we realized we really needed to get ready for church. The G was having work done and running super irregularly so we decided to walk about twenty minutes and take the Q. We had to wait for it a long time, but we made it to church two minutes late. Jacob was out of town so there was someone else preaching- I enjoyed it, though. After church, we came home. Graves fell asleep on the way and Annie and Peyton stopped in Mr. Coco's. We just put Graves to bed and fed Annie supper and got her to bed. I uploaded some pictures and ate supper and went to bed myself.

Today was a weird day. Mondays seem to be usually, I guess. I just always miss the conveniences of home. Our toilet flooded and of course, we only have the one. I'm anxious for Peyton to get home and us to enjoy another day with him tomorrow. We'll be on our own Wednesday and the weekend, but he also has Thursday and Friday off.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Serious and Silly and the Recent Thoughts About the Blog

Awhile back I was skimming some old posts and I read back over a post I had written nearly five years ago, and while it was fun and I delighted in reading it back to myself, I knew it wouldn't have fit at all with the way I write now. It would seem weirdly out of place and random. And that sort of bothered me.

I want to feel the freedom to write my soul on these pages and for a time that was hard and felt unnatural. And then one day it just became me in this space, a good bit of the time. And I was happy about it. But there's a part of me that also wants to continue to enjoy the freedom of posting something humorous and quirky and weird because that's every bit as much a part of my personality as the other is.

I also realized the other night that I've blogged so much less this year so far than in years past. I think part of it is trying to indulge in live in the city as much as possible, some of it is writing more on the sideblogs, but some of it is me just not being as organized as I'd like to be.

One final thing I realized just this week is that I have a TON of drafts. I always do. That's part of it for me. But it's gotten more out of control than ever. I'm thinking I may take one day each week and devote it to tackling a post in drafts and making it into something.

This blog is an ever-evolving thing and I always enjoy looking back on it at the end of each year and reading through my own thoughts and feelings. It's even more interesting now that I have year(s) on the books to look back two or four years ago and see what I was experiencing and the way this space was used to help me process. And it's a little fun to wonder what I'll be blogging about in two or four more years!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Church Post (Joining God in the Renewal of Brooklyn; Knowing Christ and Him Crucified)-- Part 2

Picking up where I left off yesterday.

We moved. And we visited a few different churches. And thankfully, we found places we fit really quickly. Our time here is limited and I really am so thankful that the Lord led us to the places where we are so quickly and so effortlessly (baring transit, I mean-- that shit is still hard!).

So, first the story of Trinity Grace Church: Crown Heights.

Trinity Grace is a network of church plants throughout the city. They operate from the "parish" model, meaning they desire to be structured as neighborhood churches that have a real presence in the neighborhoods. From the website: "We call this neighborhood model The City Parish. Like the traditional Catholic or Episcopal church, our neighborhood churches exist as part of a larger, unified family.Historically to have a parish meant to take spiritual responsibility for a geographic area. That's why members of Trinity Grace parish churches believe in taking ownership of the spiritual condition of their neighborhood, finding ways to not only love one another, but tangibly love those living nearby through acts of service and stewarding resources for the common good."

It's absolutly fascinating how this works. As soon as there becomes a group of people from a neighborhood going into another neighborhood to attend a parish, they have this group start meeting as a "missional community"- fellowshiping and praying and dreaming about what the church God rises up in their neighborhood will eventually look like (while still attending an already established church). 

The community aspect was very appealing to us. It's non-denominational and I know that weirds some people out, but their statement of belief lined up with what we believe.

 I think the first plant was about ten years ago in Manhattan. As of now there are two in Brooklyn. We went to a service at one of the Manhattan churches when we visited last August and enjoyed it. We also have friends who attend another one of the Manhattan ones. Initially it appealed to us because of the community focus, the not-hugeness of it, and the fact that they are very orthodox theologically even if they aren't very specific theologically.

We started going to a branch in Park Slope (which is one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Brooklyn) and we liked it there. We found out quickly, though, that there was going to be a church plant in Crown Heights. It's a neighborhood near ours and it was only slightly farther and even though it took two buses instead of one like Park Slope, we really loved Crown Heights.

 It's an area that's in the process of gentrification, which can be both good and horrible for a neighborhood, and it's a very diverse community. That was something we really wanted in a church and in Crown Heights we found it! The people we met there were some of the most friendly, most welcoming, and most authentic people we've met yet. We've developed the start of some really great friendships there. It is also TGC that led us to A House on Beekman, which has been a really important part of our lives here. The love these people feel for one another is very real and it's special to be a part of that. So many people have reached out to us and genuinely cared for us.

I guess it could be said that this seems like what I was trying to gently push back against yesterday (moving to the South Bronx is different from moving to Africa, but it's not something most people are signing up for). For some reason, though, it just feels very organic and natural here. People's hearts are stirred and they go as God calls them. And their neighbors who stay in Manhattan? I've yet to see anyone make them feel like dirt because they aren't "sold out" enough or whatever. Also, there is a broader range of ideas about parenting and culture and politics and such and I find that refreshing.

There is a certain vernacular and one of the things you hear about is "joining God in the renewal of Brooklyn". And quite honestly, you feel like it. You feel like you are watching the Lord work in this place and you are allowed the privilege of joining Him there. You are watching God make all things new and you're are part of it. Quite the powerful experience, really.

Well, right after we found TGC: Crown Heights, I attended the Mockingbird Conference at Calvary-Saint George's. Mockingbird was also a powerful, powerful experience for me. First of all, the "craziness" (i.e. the Spirit's work) that even got me there was just intense. A friend from home linked to a post on the Mockingbird blog, which I immediately became fascinated with. A week later, I read something about last minute registration for a conference in Manhattan (until that point, I had no idea the blog/conference originated int he city). I signed up, even though I was terrified of going by myself and it was one of the coolest things I've done in the city. Eh, in my life. It was all about things that resonated deeply with me- "Anxiety, Identity and the Christian Message" was the theme. I mean, hold the phone. I met people I immediately connected with and truthfully, I heard the Gospel in a fresh way. These people were not paying lip service to grace in any way. It was everything to them. And I insisted we visit the church the following weekend. We did and the message struck me as powerful again.

Over the past few months, we've met lots of friendly faces there and become friends with the priest and his wife and their children. They are incredibly kind and probably the most hospitable people I know, in the South or here. We've been to their place numerous times and last week Melina told me that they genuinely don't consider the rectory (THEIR APARTMENT!) theirs. They think it's belongs to the people of the parish. And they sure act like it. It kind of blows my mind.

In addition to feeling really loved and appreciated, we recognized a theological depth that we've been missing out on. This is more Peyton's thing- he's just very interested in theology and a more academic style preaching appeals to him. In fact, I think he experienced this even more at Redeemer, where he has been going on the weekends he works (because it's the only service he's found in the city that starts tat 7:30). Boyfriend LOVES a three point sermon. I enjoy the sermons at Calvary-Saint G's because there's a lot of cultural references and there is, honestly, a focus on emotion and anxiety and issues of identity and such and that's really meets me where I am. But more than that, I am, like I said, hearing the Gospel in a new way. I feel like it's grace upon grace.

Take Creative Arts Camp. The song for the week that a talented church member wrote declares "Though you don't do all you should, God will work it all for good". And I just pray that isn't a trite platitude in my children's heart, but something I can very truly help them understand as they continue to belt it out in the coming weeks and months.

It's funny because I never, ever thought we'd be attending an Episcopal church in the city. I've said it before, but I lacked a WHOLE LOT OF NUANCE...because my images of an Episcopal church in New York City had a lot more to do with active homosexual clergy than with the proclamations of the historic faith of Christ and Him crucified...bold proclamations that I now cherish. 

Anyway, shortly after the conference, Peyton and I discussed it and I really wanted to make Calvary-Saint George's our temporary church home. I was on a high from the conference but Peyton wanted to be part of a more diverse church that was really at work in serving the community in a ton of ways (TGC).

I realized pretty quickly we could swing both if we were willing to do the work and (especially when Peyton's working) allow Sunday to be the hardest day of the week. I remember Peyton was impressed I was considering that, knowing how hard the transit was for me. Peyton is rarely impressed with people.

I decided we'd give it a shot and see if it was worth it. It has been. It requires two buses to and from Crown Heights and three trains into Gramercy. It also required a $175 toddler carrier for Graves to make the train even feasible because I could not do all the steps into and out of and within the stations with a stroller and him in my arms. It also means going to a service at Calvary-Saint G's that has no childcare. Which sometimes means I miss half the sermon making sure Graves isn't being loud and obnoxious. But it's been worth it. Every time.

There is a big positive to the evening service, though, actually. It's a "contemporary" service, but that does not mean the same thing it does at a lot of places. It's not a rock concert (TGC isn't either- not by a long shot, for what it's worth). The worship has been some of my favorite I've ever been a part of. It's not the typical Episcopal service that you think of (the morning one is, mostly). It retains a ton of liturgical elements, but it's more casual and the worship is just soul-stirring. It's one of my favorite things all week.

But there's a catch here, too. The ironic thing about the "thick" theology is that, in some areas, it's a theology we don't really agree we. In fact, it's one we've (specifically Peyton) really pushed back against. The theology, at times,  has a very Reformed bent and if you know anything about Wesleyans, we, well...don't. I thought Peyton might really take issue with it because it's something he feels STRONGLY about. But he said it was actually a really good thing to be challenged with it. And I think Jake (the priest) is happy to have an open dialogue about it. We're reading books that he's told us about and learning more. [As an aside, I had no idea Episcopalians leaned this way. I don 't think all do. But if you think about Anglicanism and it's tie to the Reformation, it makes sense.]

Of course, we care about doctrine. It's important. But this is a small part of the teaching there. There is such a focus on the cross, on grace, on the law vs. Gospel, on "knowing Christ and Him crucified" that these debates aren't the crux of the matter for me.

That said, it's hard to hear Jake say "the phrase 'free will' gives me the heebie jeebies". Because geez, *that* gives me the heebie jeebies.

Another good example is the other night we sang a beautiful song. I was distracted by Graves and only caught the melody and the last stanza:
"Praise the God of all creation;
Praise the Father's boundless love.
Praise the Lamb, or Expiation,
Priest and King enthroned above.
Praise the Spirit of salvation,
Him by whom our spirits live.
Undivided adoration
To the great Jehovah give."

It was actually one of my favorite things we've sang. I came home and Googled it. It turns out it's a Lutheran hymn called "Lord, Tis Not that I Did Choose Thee" with a contemporary version. I couldn't download it. I just couldn't. And I felt so conflicted about if we were even in the right place that I was in tears. 

I talked to Peyton about it and he reassured me and a few weeks later, I'm confident we are. There are quite a few areas of my life I've learned to live in the tension and this may well be another one the Lord is calling us do just that in for reasons we don't even know.

If anything, in addition to maybe having a richer understanding of the Gospel, we'll maybe have a more nuanced perspective on the whole free will discussion.

We have gained SO very much from this city and this experience, but near the top of that list are joining God in the renewal of Brooklyn and weekly hearing the bold proclamations of the historic faith of Christ and Him crucified.

As I finish this post, I do so with tears stinging my eyes. For the great work God is doing in the city. And for the great work God is doing in my heart. I don't know that I've ever felt Him more near.