Monday, August 23, 2010

Peoples Wakin' Up!

One of my son's favorite thing to say is Mommy wakin' up!  He says it with such cheer in his voice, usually as he peels my eyelids apart.  It's not just Mommy, it's Daddy wakin' up! and Elephant wakin' up! and Baby wakin' up!  We went to a playground the other day where a tired mom was resting her eyes for a minute or so sitting on the bench while her children climbed and chased each other.  As soon as she opened them, my son loudly announced:  Peoples wakin' up!

And I guess he's right, at this point in the year when the mornings and evenings begin to turn crisp and the nights have a chill to the air that makes the fan unnecessary.  Peoples wakin' up in our house, and I'm torn between two endings for this sentence.  The first being: albeit reluctantly, and the second being: and it's about time.  I feel both ways.

I registered for the annual fall conference for my job the other day, and there was something about filling in little squares on my desktop calendar and e-mailing agendas chock full of important items to be tended to in the getting-nearer future that began to caffeinate my brain.  I have to admit, it felt good to be engaged and alert, excited about everything coming up, and raring to go.

But there's a real sadness in saying goodbye to this summer too.  I think it's been the nicest summer of my life.  There's something magical about simply surrendering to the pace and whimsy of a child, and letting go of any other preconceived notions of what to do.  We just took care of our baby this summer, didn't really try to do much else, and it was the most fun we've had in I don't know how long.  I saw a side of my husband I rarely get to see: the stress-free side.  He was silly and lazy, and often downright ridiculous, and we laughed and played and ate and slept, and that's about all we did.  I've already decided that next summer I'll only work Tuesdays through Thursdays and take four day weekends all summer long.  Ah, the lovely benefits of a flexible schedule!

We took a long drive through farmland southwest of the city the other day, past fields of cattle and orchards preparing for an early season of apple picking this year.  It was just cool enough to drive with the windows open and forgo air conditioning, and we talked about the fall, and the changes fast approaching.  I was a little worried after seeing my husband so relaxed all summer long, that going back to a busy schedule would be hard on him.  But he's starting his first year with tenure, and a classroom renovation finally complete after three years (his entire teaching career!) of working in a work-in-progress.  He told me he's excited, and feels confident and prepared.  This is a nice change from past years, when he's usually beating himself up at this point for failing to spend the whole summer preparing.  (But c'mon now, WHO DOES THAT?  Summers are for slacking, I try to tell him, and he admits it's true in the abstract, but the man holds himself to high standards.  Fortunately, this summer he decided to let his standards spend a few months visiting mine.  We haven't seen them much at all, as I like to keep them locked in the basement.)

My sister's getting married this coming weekend.  My son will be ring bearer and I'll give a toast and my husband will take photographs.  We have new outfits, and an old friend taking the train in on Thursday to join us for the drive to Connecticut on Friday.  We've been deep cleaning the house in hopes that we can come back to some semblance of organization and enjoy the last week of the summer simply maintaining rather than rearranging things in a panic as we face the fact that this sweet, sweet summer is coming to an end.

Every night as I snuggle down in bed with a novel and the two quilts I need to stay warm over the past week or so --one made for my husband when he was a small child by his grandmother, and one made by mine out of fabric scraps leftover from bridesmaid's dresses from my mother's wedding to my father, thirty-some years ago-- my baby girl begins to kick.  I pull my body pillow into my belly, and tuck it under just so, giving her a comfy place to rest, and I smile as she flails away in there, like a baby boxer landing blows that can't hurt anybody just yet.

There's fall, and then there's winter just dawning, and then there's her.  And then I haven't the foggiest, because I'll have to get to know her, like I've spent the last two years getting to know my boy.  But if there are more summers like this one lurking up ahead, and I certainly hope there are, it's just hard to believe that life could ever be anything but just fine.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Catching Up

Contrary to the way it may sound around here, there are things happening in my life.  A few, at least.  It's just that I'm finding it all so boring to write about!  How many times and ways can you say: I'm content, and continue to make it interesting?  Not so many, it seems to me.  So the writing is slow and sluggish, and I suppose the living is a little slow and sluggish too, but in such an easy, breezy, summer sunshine kind of way.  Like a Grateful Dead song.  Minus any psychedelic effects.  We're more low key than that.  And also sober.

Today is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays in the summer we do something different at work.  Instead of running our usual classroom sessions we meet at a shaded playground, a block away from a gorgeous city park.  We play at the playground, eat snacks, do arts and crafts, and then walk to the park with the toddlers to splash in a giant fountain.  My hubby volunteered (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I volunteered him, which is what actually happened) to run the arts and crafts session each week, keeping his art teaching skills sharp over the summer, and of course he brings our boy, so my whole family comes to work with me on Wednesdays.

I arrive first after spending an hour preparing in my office, and my husband and son, the other teachers, and the families we work with wander in over the next half hour or so.  Each week I park my car and then unpack: my purse, snacks, craft supplies, attendance sheets, and anything else I may have packed for the day.  I spread them out around me on a set of cement stairs, sit down, and wait for everyone else to arrive.  It's almost 10am by that time, but the neighborhood is still quiet and there are always birds chirping.  Every week I sit and listen to birdsong, sipping from my water bottle or iced half-caf coffee, sweet with milk and sugar.

Today I marveled at the fact that this is my work.  It's the very thing I would choose to do if I weren't at work, and how often do you get to say that?  My season of discontent with my job has passed, and I'm back to loving it.  I supposed work is like marriage in that way: seasons of deep joy and satisfaction and those we grit our teeth through and wait for them to pass.  I've been lucky in both marriage and work in that the discontent usually passes quickly, and even when I'm angry I'm also aware that it isn't ever so serious as I'm making it out to be.  I guess we need to get angry sometimes, if only to think about things in a different way.

Our dining room is a brand new place.  Still not complete, but close enough that we can get a sense of the finished room while sitting in there now.  I've never been a huge fan of formal dining rooms.  They look beautiful in magazines and even in other people's homes, but they always seem to end up as a paperwork storage center in mine.  We've been in this house two years this fall, and despite repeated efforts on my part to organize the room in a way that works for our family, it always ends up neglected except to pass through and drop our things on the various surfaces I've painstakingly arranged.  I think I may have finally solved the problem.

We bought a small, pub table that fits four chairs, and is the perfect height for my son's high chair.  We put it against the large wall of windows so that it fits seating for just the three of us, and then put an extra chair along each wall on either side of the windows.  This arrangement, along with the smaller table size, leaves enough room for a black leather futon on one side of the room and a computer desk on the other.  Now the room isn't just for eating, it's for relaxing and working on the computer as well.  I'm hoping the variety of uses will draw us into the room more often, and so far it seems to be working.

We hung the giant chalkboard we got from freecycle, and used it to write our weekly dinner menu when we planned meals before grocery shopping.  The farmer's market was overflowing with ripe tomatoes and peaches last Saturday, and so we indulged in both and my husband made and canned three gallons of salsa this week, half of them a peach salsa that I would be happy to eat every day for the rest of my life.

Every evening is a meal cooked on the grill and eaten on the deck, or a playground well-used and a toddler wiped out, or a park to explore: trails or creeks for hiking, or maybe a trip to the beach with sandwiches tossed in a cooler for supper.  It's the definition of what summer should be.  Before I had children I was restless.  I constantly wanted to do new things, go new places, start myself over every few months or years, build up new lives in new places just for the fun of it.  I'm so glad I did it then, because now this is brand new too.  Staying in one city, owning a house, getting to know a place inside and out, making a home.  It's a whole new pace, but no less of an adventure.

And soon my husband will go back to work, and I'll go back to dropping my boy at his sitter's every morning and teaching yoga classes two evenings a week, and we'll be busy with the hustle-bustle of being teachers in the fall.  And then we'll be a family of four, and won't that be a way to make everything brand new again?  So the ebb and flow will continue, and the seasons will pass, and maybe someday this life will seem same-old, same-old, and I'll be pining for a strange place in which to shed myself and reinvent our lives all over again.

For now though?  Same old, same old.  And ever so content with it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Memories in the Making

Over a week later, and he's still telling me:  I wanna go back a little cabin house, Mommy.  I wanna go beach.

Can you blame him?

We never went on vacation when I was a kid.  Too many children, too little money, parents who aren't particularly into traveling (and definitely not camping, which is one way to make it more affordable).  My mom used to say we spent our money on good food instead!  I never missed it, that old adage about not missing what you never had seeming true enough, but I love traveling.  And I think we may have found "our place".  This beach is less than an hour away from our home, and it costs less than a cheap hotel to stay in a cabin for a night.  I sense a vacation tradition in the making.  And something tells me my guys won't argue:

My feet are beginning to touch the ground.  This weekend we acknowledged fall approaching and finally got some things done around the house.  I'm catching up on laundry today and I mopped the floors.  My grandmother's silver has been polished, for the first time since I inherited it in the fall of '07.  So it won't be all beachy and dreamy round these parts for long.  But I'm still soaking up the summer while I can, and making memories.  They'll be some of our last as a family of three.  And maybe next summer we can introduce our little baby daughter to all the fun there is to be had at the little cabin house at the beach.  I know just the two year old to act as spokesperson--he's already proven he's cut out for the job!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Middle of a Dream

I don't know if it's summer or pregnancy, or maybe the rhythm of our schedule these past few months, with rushes of deadlines at work, frantic traveling, and refurnishing rooms interspersed with lulls of quiet days, hot and humid or thunderstorm rainy or just perfect with sunny skies and a breeze, but I feel as if I'm floating through life lately.  Drifting, dreamily, and my feet never quite touch the ground.

I see women at the end of pregnancy and their faces always soften, and look very dreamy.  It's a little early for me to have reached that stage yet!  So perhaps I can't blame it on the girl-babe, who seems to be quite kicky and active anyway, and more ready to run marathons than smile at the sun, sighing happily, stars in her eyes, which is more or less the space and speed at which I find myself.

It's the middle of everything.  It's the middle of summer.  It's the middle of pregnancy.  We're somewhere in the middle of so many projects at our house, although that timeline stretches out so long that almost anywhere is going to seem to be the middle, really.  I have none of the sure-footed stamina of the start of things.  My lists are languishing somewhere and I don't want to see how far I've come or check things off or add new items.  I know in my head, and in my heart, that we're lost in the wilderness of it all right now - no point in checking - and so the only thing to do is keep moving forward.  But there's none of that furious energy of the end either.  No deadlines looming just ahead, nobody on their way in the car and about to arrive, no sense of impending urgency to fuel the fire of get-it-done-already!  So we're wandering ... slowly meandering through each day, and waking the next to do the same like a continual loop of slow smiles, shrugged shoulders, half glasses of lemonade and feet in the pool, swishing slowly back and forth with nowhere else to get to, at least not anytime soon.

It's nice.  Nice like an afternoon nap rather than a skydiving expedition, but I'm really more of an afternoon nap kind of person anyway.  I don't know that I've ever had the urge to go skydiving.  I watched some friends do it once, and when they landed I remember thinking: I could do that, but just that I could, never that I particularly wanted to.  My sister read a book about a group who climbed Everest and told me how inspiring she found it.  I read the same book and thought: God, those people are a little bit crazy, aren't they?

I once said of my sister that she's the sort of person who, when riding a bike, would get the greatest satisfaction out of fighting her way uphill.  My boyfriend at the time I said it, on the other hand, was the sort who wanted nothing more out of life than to sail forever downhill.  Going up made him cranky and he never seemed to grasp that you must go uphill in order to earn that rush of flying down, wind in your hair.  One of the reasons we parted, I suppose.  I'm a flat ground girl myself.  I lived in Kansas for a while, and it's the only place I ever liked bike riding.  I will pedal forever at a constant speed on a long, flat road going nowhere, and I will be satisfied.  I go uphill when I have to, and apply myself with diligence, but not until I make sure there's not an alternate route that's smoother.  And the downhill flying scares me a bit.  I have trouble letting go and enjoying the rush.  I prefer smooth sailing, constant pedaling, mostly knowing what to expect.  My husband is an uphill climber, never quite satisfied with himself unless he's working at peak capacity, always comparing his present state with some optimal performance and then scolding himself for his failure to achieve the optimum at every waking moment.  But the summer, or the baby on her way but not very soon, or the house in a constant state of flux, has slowed him down too. 

Or maybe it's surrendering to the role of caretaker.  Last summer he would drink his customary half-pot of coffee each morning and then find himself surprised by the constant low-level demands of an infant, never allowing him to complete any of the tasks he had imagined he'd be able to complete.  This summer he accepted from the start that being with our boy was the only thing he'd aim for, and anything else he managed to do would be gravy.  So he's dreamy too, skipping his morning coffee and asking me to remind him of everything multiple times because he's just "not in remembering mode".  It's funny to see him this way; I tell him he's turning into me!  I'm sure it would wear on me if it were permanent (who wants to be married to themselves, God forbid?), but school is just around the corner and he'll be back to the man who unloads the dishwasher before dawn and dances in the kitchen with the mania of too much caffeine tossed back while most of us are still tossing and turning in our beds.  So, in the meantime I like this slow moving man, and so does our son, who tells me every night before bed now: I want Dada hold you, and knows I'll allow one more trip to hug and kiss Daddy before retiring to the crib for the night.

So we're all dreamy here, just meandering through the middle of things.  I can just now see the rush of fall beginning to approach in the distance, but rather than rise up to meet it prepared and fortified for any and all battles it might bring, I want to roll over and pretend not to notice it for a little bit longer.  I want to stay asleep if I can.  I'm in the middle of the nicest dream.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heaven on Earth

Remember when I said that my husband and I have never taken a vacation together since our honeymoon that didn't involve visiting family?  Ten years later, for our anniversary, we finally did.  And I have to say: it was worth the wait for the beauty of the place alone:

All photo credits to my husband                                                                                                                       

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Pungent Lush of Quiet

I'm here in these summer nights, planning to write, and thinking of posts, and starting stories in my head.  And then nothing.  I nap, or lie lazily on a couch staring up into the warm summer air, tracing circles in the sky with my fingertips.  There's so much inside, and so much outside too, so much everything all around me, that I can't do much but rest, soak it all in, and wait to find the words.

We came home from our vacation and my boy, after ten days with his mama's full attention, was not at all ready for mama to go back to work.  Which he has told me.  And told me.  And told me.  Through tears and loud, choking sobs, and cries of:  Mama, I want hold you! and Mama, NO work, NO office, Mama!

And then there were the days last week when we feared something might be wrong with our daughter, and the waiting for the next ultrasound, and the waiting for the appointment with the genetic counselor, and the waiting to see if the amnio would be necessary.  And in the end, it wasn't necessary, and all will be well, or at least our chances at well are equal to anyone else's, which is really all you can ask for, and plenty enough for me! 

But in the meantime it was hard not to answer Mama, I want hold you! with indulgence every time.  Except, I do have to go to work.  And he's not making it easy on me in the slightest.  And once I arrive, I am nearly drowning in to-do lists and ought to stay all day instead of just the morning if I'm ever to get all these things done.  I have a new collaborating partner, and I'm thrilled and excited about everything we'll be able to accomplish together.  But after a brief lull in demands as the last program year came to a close, things are quickly ramping up again, and a week's vacation seems to be a poor method for staying on top of one's game.  So while at work I am a whir of meetings and notes, post-its and reminders, paperwork and planning, training and racing and touching base and following up and forgetting as many things as I remember most days!  I come home a weird combination of wired and tired, my thoughts leaping like a hobo hopping trains across the country in a pattern with no discernible overriding logic, except the mad dash for freedom without the costs.

I bought a new dining room set, but we have no plan for what to do with the old one.  My husband went to pick up a batch of firewood from a freecycle ad and walked away with a jogging stroller thrown in for good measure (a single to use instead of the bulky double jogger I usually lug about).  He also responded to an offer of a chalkboard, which turned out to be a huge, heavy piece the size of one wall in our dining room with a beautiful white wooden frame.  We can't hang it until we buy a set of toggle bolts to hold its weight.  I found the perfect desk for sale for $300, and then discovered an almost exact match on craigslist for $40.  It came with a hutch we don't want.  So the dining room sets, and the jogging stroller and the chalkboard and the new desk, and the unwanted hutch are all taking up space in the dining room along with the couch I'm hoping to replace with the next paycheck, and a blond-wood bench our boy is just beginning to outgrow, and an ever-growing pile of paperwork including, but not limited to, all the mail collected for us while we were away.  Just walking through the room makes me tired.  I imagine that I could work my way through the room if only I could simultaneously work my way through a bottle of wine, but that may just be my excuse for gliding through it each day as if I'm incapable of taking action.  I do, indeed, feel incapable of taking action for the time being.

Once I make it through the messy maze of dining room I find myself confronting a hallway covered in a patchwork of paint samples.  All the possible colors we're considering bumping up against each other in a geometric grid of imperfect squares.  We can't choose a color; we keep buying more samples and painting new squares above, and below, and beside the other squares.  We joke that soon we'll be done with the whole room, and simply live with the patchwork of possibilities.

My son's toy supply feels like it doubled after a week with my mother-in-law, and all my classroom-like organization is lost amidst the bounty.  It is bounty - and abundance - I'm struggling under, unable to find the words or the energy to work my way through the constant chaos of feelings and things and the demands of all the luxuries of a life so full of luck and love, days thick with summer air and evenings spent in the echo of cicadas calling while we sit in deck chairs or thunder roaring as raindrops fall fast and heavy outside our open windows.

I find myself sleeping the afternoons away, leaving messes to pile on the messes, and moving through my own home like a ghost who can't possibly be expected to create order in this chaotic corporeal world.  So I lie lackadaisical on piles of pillows, and my son climbs me like a mountain, driving trucks and trains on my limbs, stopping to listen to the stories he demands in between imaginary journeys in vehicles fashioned of plastic, wood and wire.

I'm so tired, but I'm happy, and all I can do for now is rest - and be - in this pungent lush of quiet, waiting for the words to return to me.