Wednesday, December 21, 2011

december!

Grant loves loves popcorn. At this Christmas party, he parked himself by the bowl.
Claire has a friend here who knows her mama likes to bake! This season Claire has been helping to frost cookies, making sure to lick the spoon between each. Mmm.
We have a collection of photographs by Claire. She's getting good at not cropping heads.
One of our favorite things to do: color.
The Hilton hosted a Christmas tree lighting. What fun evening!

Monday, December 12, 2011

finding quiet

Quick post. It's naptime here. Quiet. Quiet: I can here cranes and hammers and saws outside. Apartment buildings fly up six or seven stories, as long as it takes to lay concrete blocks one on another to divide rooms and make windows. I can look out the window and see men across the way shouting down to the ground, directing where the loads of rods or blocks are placed. The owner of our building bricked off part of the courtyard and is building a secret. There is a single storey building and the next lot is filling with palm trees. Sometimes you can hear a man sitting at an electric saw running bricks through, cutting them in half for the face of the outside walls.

Yesterday we walked to our local grocery, more of a bakala or cornerstore than a grocery. The road in front of our apartment extends further now and we can guess how the other roads, when they finally arrive, will meet ours. Piles of dirt disappear, reappear. Holes are dug, holes are filled. Justin thinks our road will get streetlights soon and I think soon means another year or two. I finally got Claire not to pick up so much junk from the ground when I said, "People pee and poop out here. Leave that alone." The entire desert is not a toilet, but we've seen enough men on their way across pause by a building or squat at a rubbish pile.

I ate breakfast out this morning. I took a book and some school work and sat at a great little place, had an omelet and hash browns. On the drive there, I turned off the radio and sat at a light in silence. I looked to the left and saw an abandoned building, an old salon. Salon was spelled correctly, instead of "saloon," which made me think a Westerner owned the place. There were no window panes, only yawning black of the inside rooms, empty. The front gate was shut but I wanted to go in and see the place. I wondered what I might find. It's cold here so maybe strays found the rooms away from wind. Maybe an old cupboard, hairbrushes, a bottle of dried nail polish. Shadows where mirrors hung. Wires where fixtures were. In the building next door, laundry hung from a balcony. You see that a lot here: the laundry hanging from windows and balconies. You can guess lives by the laundry. In our neighborhood there are a lot of men, so I like seeing the balconies with tiny sweaters and pants pinned to lines.

We hang our own laundry on lines Justin put up in our little laundry room. It dries quick enough. A friend of mine used her apartment rooftop's lines; in the summer, her laundry was dry in an hour. Winter is dry enough here it would probably be not much longer. Justin talked about getting a dryer or fixing an old one, but I like our lines better. Though a nice warm towel, or tumbling a sweatshirt on high for a minute or two: that would be nice right now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the latest here

I mentioned the chance (smidge of, distant, remote) of an Arab autumn here a couple posts ago. Between then and now, I had the opportunity to ask a Kuwaiti man about what I'd been reading in the papers. Let me say this: the papers, my friends, do not publish everything. Nor will I repeat much of it here since I'm not stepping out into the world of investigative journalism via small blog. While he explained that what he relayed to me and the few others gathered was common knowledge among Kuwaitis, I cannot blab based on that alone.

Unless you email me.

The thing is, most countries like to be seen in a polite light. Moonlight. Candlelight. Lamps set around a room. No one says, "Turn on the fluorescents."

Anyway. In the news yesterday and today: the Prime Minister and some other members of Parliament resigned. The Emir accepted the resignations but asked them to remain on as part of the "caretaker government" as the New York Times put it. Imagine how excited protestors were about that. Read the Kuwait Times' article. The last paragraph of the Kuwait Times' article reads:

"A stalled economy - despite 12 consecutive years of  multibillion dollar budget surpluses - has left many frustrated as Kuwait has been overshadowed by fast-growing Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the past 20 years. 'It's becoming difficult, almost impossible, to reach a compromise that will put our country back on the right track to achieving its aspirations,' wrote columnist Sherida Al-Maousherji in the daily Al Jarida."

I wondered about this shortly after arriving in Kuwait a couple of years ago, expecting to find clean and organized and discovering that our neighborhood had no paved roads and trash floated through the sky on breezy days. (The least of it, really). I couldn't figure out why such a monetarily wealthy country didn't have the best educational programs, healthcare, or infrastructure. Or why the country's generous citizen welfare didn't also extend to many of the poorest worker residents. So while I have heard sentiments like the one above expressed, I hadn't seen them in print before. (Probably because I didn't look hard). I know countries and governments need to sort themselves out and I do hope that Kuwait does. There is much to be gained.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

poetry

I love to write. Next weekend I will talk with people about the value of writing practice and journaling. So I may use this space to practice some of my ideas. My creative writing students begin workshopping poetry this week. I must say: I love teaching creative writing. I get to write alongside. I get to try some of the forms again (again again) and try to generate a few new phrases or ideas.

I don't get bored. Sometimes I would get bored mid-Gatsby or something because Tom and Daisy never ever figure it out at the end. But teaching writing, writing alongside: near impossible to get bored.

The following is a try at terza rima. Not too intimidating, but enough of a form to make you work a bit. I wrote it during a class exercise and was thinking about something I said to my students before we began. I used that as my first line:

don't worry about being brilliant
write it down work it out leave it on the page
understand the corner of your mind called migrant

let her wander live another page
allow her games of twists and turns; pretend
you get it. call her sloppy words sage

your reward is a notebook of no end
words in margins at the edge of your next thought,
interrupting with three lines burned

on you tongue: you ought
to get it down on a page a scrap your palm
ink it let it   sit   until she has bought

your undivided attention; then you write long
lines in quiet loud shallow deep places.
she feeds you line after line until leaving at dawn

So I had fun with this. I typed it pretty much as is in my notebook but will likely play around with capital letters, punctuation, and sound. I get really excited about longs poems like sestinas because you can go on and on and on. But I also appreciate the economy of poetry and should probably cut some words for this. When I revise, I'll bring this back to you.

I have a writing blog that even fewer people read, so I'm posting this here. I should revive the writing blog and have that as the place for things like this, and keep here as the place for things like my long thoughts and short whines. Or short thoughts and long whines! Regardless, I encourage you to write a bit of poetry today.

Friday, November 18, 2011

arab autumn?

A few weeks ago I read about a protest here that demanded to know what certain members of this government did with a lot of money. Rumors of secret accounts, bribes and personal use of government funds that could be otherwise used to improve (or just provide) infrastructure or schooling or other services. When you are talking about billions of dollars, you don't have to pick just one thing to improve. That particular protest didn't recieve much international attention, though people in the region likely noticed. I read about it in local papers and wondered if something would catch but didn't think it likely. That's because I'm snarky about how much apathy money can buy. Truth: corruption is corruption. And good for the few here who are calling on their government to clean up their house.

So this week, there was another protest that did wake up the press. You can read about it here in a BBC News article and here in a Kuwait Times article.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

an oasis

There is so much about Kuwait that doesn't say oasis. But after returning from our summer in the States, I began seeing how our time here has been like drinking good water, sitting in shade. When we first arrived, I went through months of second guessing the course of my life, hating decisions I had made alone or ones made with Justin, sensing loss more than gain. I wrote about that here and here. Then I entered a stretch of seeking to know God, understand my faith. I remain in that stretch.

I am not tidy. I wish I were neatly packaged. There is a lot that I learn and undo and examine and pray about and the days here stand in front of me saying Ha. Learn this. Most of what I'm learning is grace and peace and what it means to love with a genuine heart. What it is to forgive. What that looks like. So I read the Bible, many times reading the same passages or chapters again and again, gleaning bits as I go. I am learning to be honest in my prayers.

And you know, it does feel odd to write this plainly. Living my faith is an exercise in humility. Because, as I said, I am not tidy. I think I have figured out how to be content or how to not be jealous and am met with a situation saying Can you really be content in this? My pride speaks. I fall.

To oasis: the different challenges of living here give me better understanding of my desire to live for God. What that really means, right where I am. I think about some of what I've learned in this past year or so and I have wondered if I might have learned the same lessons elsewhere. I don't know. Maybe.

Learning: Not to worry. To be content. No gossip. Character over reputation. Be kind, even if they aren't. Be gentle with my words. Open my home. Listen. Share. Speak carefully. And more.

Life and faith should be growing. For example, I can see now that I do not worry myself over what people think as much as I did a year ago. To get to this place, I walked through hurt and discomfort and misunderstanding and anger. And it sucked. And I wanted to quit and return to the familiar worry about every little thing you did wrong and the very favorite be nice so you are liked because both are such easy games. Instead, I reached a point where I was sick enough of my games, seeing them for that. A competition in my head that I would never win. I quit the worry. I would start down a worry thought path and stop. I acknowledged the thought and said: I am choosing not to dwell on this. And it was very hard to learn to do this. Very hard to leave the easy worry and redirect my mind. Because I am not finished, I keep learning this in different ways.

I want to tell you more about the freedom I feel too. Not flaky I feel so great because God's so good freedom but freedom that reassures me I am being refined, good work is being done in me. But I have a lasagna I need to put together, so I need to wrap this up. I have thought so much about how cruddy it is to live here, bumping across sand to get to a paved road and bad traffic. Missing family. Missing green trees and running paths. Missing libraries. But something is changing in me and I can say I like Kuwait. Sometimes I want to tack on a list of qualifiers, but I can say it. Because I am growing up in my faith here. And a year from now, I want to see further change in my  mind and heart. I want my time here to be praise to God. In my everyday regular life. If not in Kuwait, where? Where would be a better place?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

rest

We have a week of rest. We aren't traveling. We are resting. Still up early, still to bed early, but resting the days. When you get a week the first couple of days, the week seems endless and full and great and we could do just anything with our time: paint another couple of walls, go to the aquarium, cook something other than pasta or curry!

This morning Claire and I walked along the Fahaheel seawall, shared that time with friends. She is getting to be such a big girl. Last year was tough, to add Grant to the family and be so busy with the newness of two little ones. This year, we're all sleeping at night and I am finding it such fun to have Claire and Grant around. I like the little games we play, the giggles, the singsong. Claire gets going on a song and just throws any lyric in so that Mary Lamb is Mary Lamb is Mary Lamb and I have to reminder her "Mary had a little lamb" to get her back on track.

I smile a lot these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ten minutes

I give myself ten minute chunks to do a lot of things: go online, type an email, clean. Ten minutes of cleaning, when you know that's it, is so so manageable. So here are ten minutes of blogging:

We are in Kuwait. I started teaching part-time, on campus every other day. I really enjoy my classes and my students. The challenge is that I'm "on" at school and then "on" at home. I think that if I taught full time or was at home full time, there would be enough down days to come along. Like, not every day at work would be super busy and not every day at home would be packed.

Watch for further thinking about that!

Grant is one! Claire is three! I am sleeping at night! Justin and I are back to our insanely early wake time: we get up around quarter to four. He bikes, I run. I do think about Someday. As in, Someday early will return to five in the morning and that will feel virtuous enough.

I drink a lot of espresso. Lattes and mochas. I have learned to make each but still go to Caribou. I go to Caribou more for a table to myself, reading and writing, than for the coffee. But the coffee helps.

You know what, though: my life is more than sneaking away for a coffee and an hour alone. My time is up, and I don't have the right words to explain any of this, but Kuwait has been an oasis in many ways. I never thought a desert place would see me deciding how to be alive.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

two posts in one day: must be guilt

To counter my not quite ready to die post of this afternoon, I offer a quick list of Summer 2011 Good Things:

1. Did not have to give up my iced mochas, but did perfect making my own iced latte using a stovetop espresso maker. Thanks Mom for showing me how.
2. Running early. OUTSIDE.
3. Villa Pizza, High Rock Cafe, and Emy J's.
4. Siblings. Siblings everywhere! And nieces and nephews. It is neat to see us older three with little ones of our own.
5. Catching up with friends. It's nice to have relationships that pick up where left off, fill in gaps quickly and just enjoy the present.
6. Justin biked. OUTSIDE.
7. Fast internet. Given what awaits us in Kuwait, I am tempted to go nuts on iTunes.
8. You go to a grocery store and it's there. It doesn't matter what it is. It is there. That is very American.
9. Eavesdropping.
10. Rain. Thunderstorms. I ran in rain and there is not much that I find more cleansing. I get very metaphorical when I run in rain.
11. Magazines and libraries and bookstores.
12. Free babysitting. Which gives me time to:
13. Write and read.
14. Dryers. We line dry in Kuwait. There have been a couple of times when we used a dryer just because we could. Warm sweatshirts, ahhh.
15. Driving. We enjoy being on the road and there isn't much road in Kuwait that is actually enjoyable so it's been fun to drive. Really. Except when someone (or two) are screaming in the backseat.
16. Thinking returning to the States wouldn't be that bad. We aren't planning it for anytime soon, but it was nice to realize that the States are okay. We could live here.  I could get used to number 8.
17. It didn't snow.
18. Hills.
19. Watching my Dad and my father-in-law be grandpas. Both are great.
20. Enjoying other people cooking for me. We've had some wonderful meals. It's been nice to be spoiled like that.
21. Justin and I have enjoyed a few dates. I keep wanting to call our dates "escapes." We get a chance to talk about what may come next and what we're in the middle of now, and to be together alone. Together alone. That's good for a couple. We've also had a growing time as a family. I think we're settling in to this Mama Papa thing.
22. Walking and biking with the little ones.
23. Big thoughts and little thank yous.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

summer home coming to a close

If I posted weekly you'd get a sense of the fun we have had all summer. But since it's the end of the adventure, I keep thinking of my brother Nate and what he said shortly after I arrived to Wisconsin with the kids. He and his family had been in the States for a bit and were gearing up for their last week or two. He said, "I am tired of traveling. I would rather be dead." He is back in Korea now, so he made it.

But I get the sentiment. The thought of going one more place makes me itch. I tallied all of our places this summer has taken us: seven. We have slept in seven different places. And switches? The back and forth? Eleven times. We have moved from here to there to there to here to there there there eleven times. Eleven times to set up beds for Claire and Grant and to see if we remembered the toothpaste. Now let me say that each of our hosts has been lovely. Really. We've enjoyed our visits.

But at one point my mother-in-law answered a question about lunch or what to do this afternoon with, "It doesn't matter. We're on vacation." She was on vacation. Me? Oh, this is not vacation. This is a diversion. It is fun. It even manages to be restful at times. But it is not a vacation. A vacation will be when everyone poops on the toilet and carries their own backpack. Perhaps it has something to do with the length of time allotted: a vacation ends after one or two weeks and then the novelty of someone else's bed dishes bathroom wears off.

So, yes, I miss Kuwait. And, yes, I know it will be hot when we get there. And I know I will hate the traffic. That's been one of the nicest parts of summer: such easy, mindless driving. Another nice part has been ther running. The green green world here. The moderate summer temperatures. Seeing family and friends. Watching my kids grow in a month. It's been a good summer.

Justin and I have been thinking about next summer. Yeah. I know. We should just stop. I think we want to talk about it while this summer is fresh. We are at the dragging end of it. We don't have a clue. Here is where I try to think of something more upbeat than, "I am tired of traveling. I would rather be dead." I wouldn't rather be dead. I would rather be home though. A few more days and we'll be there. And after a few more weeks, we won't recall the burdens of suitcases and we'll talk about next summer and say that this summer wasn't so bad. We all had a lot of fun, you know. And that's true. We have had a lot of fun.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

flying home

Home. One of them, right? This week I head to Wisconsin with the two little ones. And while I am very excited to visit with family, I'm also a little nervous about the flights and, you know, I'm not sure what to expect from the States.

I had a difficult time returning to Wisconsin after just one year in Colombia. And the summer between Colombia and Kuwait was just nuts since we were deciding what to cram into six suitcases for our new life in the Middle East. This summer should be relaxed. No move to prepare for. Instead, at the end of August, we'll be returning to a home we've made: our apartment walls are ours, we've got wardrobes and cabinets and drawers full of our stuff, we know the grocery store and our favorite restaurants. We'll miss being here.

I think that's a good thing.

Two years away. Wow. In the past two years Claire learned to walk and talk and has quite the personality. We had a son, sweet boy Grant who might be the most cheerful baby I've ever met. We've traveled a bit. I committed to a writing habit (if you're going to pick a habit...). I decided treadmills in and of themselves are not evil. We found a church we like and are developing a deeper faith. We have friends here. Kuwait is a dusty land - dust that collects on window ledges like sifted flour, dust that hangs in the air like fog - and we like it.

Not the dust, but the land. Kuwait. I can't really talk about Kuwait without getting soap-boxy or sentimental and I haven't got the time for either right now. Just to say: I don't regret moving abroad. We don't live anywhere glamorous but our eyes are open. This is our fourth year abroad and getting ready to take a trip home, well, that home is beginning to seem a little foreign too. What won't feel foreign is my family's dining table or my college town running routes. What won't feel foreign is a bear hug from my Dad. Oh, it'll be good to be home. Yes, it will.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

jordan!

I will post pictures within the next couple of days, but must say: we really enjoyed Jordan. Justin planned the vacation a few months ago and I balked at the idea of carting two little ones around a country, hopping from one place to the next for a week. I balked a lot. Balked is a nice way of saying: whined.

When I realized that balking was not going to get me out of the trip - and that Justin wasn't going to take Claire and Grant by himself - I decided I should pack. I got out a big suitcase the day before our flight and counted out about forty pairs of pants and underwear for Claire (a wee bit accident prone, ha ha) and two pairs of pants for Grant. That's right. Two pairs of long pants, one with cute puppy dog faces on the feet (excellent since they kept him from eating his socks and also quickly transitioned into pajamas!).

I forgot a lot and could probably write an ironic poem titled What I Didn't Pack for Jordan, but what is a sink for, if not washing underthings to dry in the rear window of your rental car so they're ready for tomorrow?

And we weren't the only one with kids on the road! We saw a handful of families with young ones as we toured from Madaba to Petra to Wadi Rum. At Petra I met a couple - she Italian, he German - with their eight month old son. "I thought we were the only ones!" I said in greeting. And you know, people are really nice about toddlers and babies. Once I settled into This Is My Life and decided to enjoy the limits of exploring a country with a baby strapped to your front, I found much good.

So much is about contentment, right?

And while we enjoyed our week away, even daydreaming a move to such a culturally and historically rich country, I was really glad to come home. Claire's school hosted an Easter egg hunt today and one of her teachers told me sometimes you don't realize you need to get away until you're away. And it's true. I'm glad Justin took the time to plan our week away. We needed it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

why i wish i knew more about the middle east

Well, I'm in the middle of it. Living in Kuwait, disappointed that the pyramids will have to wait until after Egypt's election (and hoping said election is peaceful and resolved after the votes are counted, not marred by corruption). Living in Kuwait, sad for the people in Bahrain. Living in Kuwait, wondering who else might head for Saudi when their masses congregate to protest. Living in Kuwait, looking at Yemen and Libya and Lebanon and praying peace for a region that has had little rest for centuries.

And living in Kuwait, a little surprised - aren't we all? - by a fruit vendor in Tunisia.

When the protests in Egypt began building, we called Justin's parents and told them not to worry about us. They weren't. Kuwait is oil money. There isn't a big reason to want change as long as oil keep producing cash. This February, Kuwait celebrated fifty years as a the State of Kuwait, twenty years since liberation from Iraqi invaders, and five years of the current sheik. In a spirit of celebration, the government gave one thousand Kuwaiti dinars to each citizen. That would be like the US government giving every citizen about thirty-five hundred dollars for the Fourth of July. Go buy some fireworks.

Kuwaitis are very private. Kuwaitis are only a third (just over a third, I think) of their country's population and are careful to keep their business theirs. This means some expats have loud opinions about Kuwaitis, because there is a bit of mystery and because it's easier to assume than to know. This year I really wanted to get to know a Kuwaiti family, learn their culture from the inside. Not inside inside, but maybe sitting in the front room inside. Last year when I was in the classroom, I felt comfortable enough to ask some of my students questions about Kuwait; at other times, they volunteered opinions or information that added to what I knew about the country and its people.

But anytime I think I have an opinion about the country or its culture, I hesitate. Because I have heard a lot of loud opinions from expats, and because I've heard some loud opinions bounce around in my own head, and because I don't want loud opinions to escape my mouth. Totally. Unfounded. Or. Stereotyped. Still, there's talk. And sometimes I add to it.

For example, I've heard it said that the one thousand dinar amounts to a bribe: don't protest us. Or a reminder: the government provides you with all this. Fast cars. Big houses. Cheap labor. Education and marriage and child stipends or bonuses.

I would like to ask a few Kuwaitis if they felt bribed by their government's gift.

More though, I'd like to ask a few Kuwaitis if change needs to come to their country. It's easy to have an opinion from the outside. I want to know what people think on the inside. Kuwait has had a few protests in the past weeks - residents who would like to be citizens and so be granted all the rights (and money) of citizenship. And I have heard that there is a movement among some Kuwaitis to press for a more Islamist government, but that was last year - I'm assuming that the desire for an Islamist government still exists, just as the desire for a more liberal or more conservative goverment always exists among Americans.

I'd like to know though: how would Kuwaitis like to see their country change?

Meantime, Justin and I feel safe. We are where we belong.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

using my 30 minutes wisely : )

Our friend Erin has a talented mom named Nan. She made these quilts for the little ones when Grant was born and I finally got around to taking a picture of them!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

march's post: online time

This may be it.

I am becoming one of those bloggers who let their blogs hang for weeks. Sometimes I feel bad about that. Worse, I might become one of those bloggers who apologizes for her absence. I'd really rather not. It seems too assuming.

So. I'm limiting my online time. This is born of necessity but more so of desire. I like to catch up on a few blogs and do that once a week or so. I do read the news daily (usually). I check email two or three times a day but could probably cut that to once since most of my inbox is promotions from Backcountry or Rogan's Shoes and I haven't ordered from either in years.

The necessity part: Two children. That's it. Also, one husband. Also, cooking and baking. Also, I still enjoy writing and am working on completing short essays for submission.

The desire part: I am being more conscientious about what I feed my mind. There is too much junk in this world. I get sucked into worries that aren't mine. I find it is easier to be content if you spend more time with what you have than looking at what you don't have. (Shout out to Facebook).

I think the Great Online is robbing people of living. That sounds so dramatic. But I doubt I am alone in this thought, that screen time takes something away from me.

I love the Great Online. I love that I can email family and friends and see pictures of babies I get to meet soon. I love that I can Google a word I don't know, or find out what is happening in my home state. I love that I can order stuff without leaving my apartment. (And that my Mom will ever so kindly pack it and ship it to me).

But there's a limit. I've been thinking about what my limit is. And here it is: thirty minutes a day. I am going to try this for one week. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

no fast getaway (and other parenting truths)

I have never been a patient person. Sometimes I am more patient than other times, but most of the time I am screaming inside. When I try to go all calm, I forget to breathe.

I am (/have been/ always will be) working on this. And I might be a decade ahead of schedule since I have a toddler and a baby. A toddler and a baby demand patience. I read a parenting book that reccommended just slowing down. When you spend time with baby, be on his time. Don't hurry through that diaper change. Don't rush the bath. Just live a little more slowly.

So I am living a little more slowly. Sometimes a lot more slowly. This is why it can take twenty minutes to round up a sweater and shoes for Claire and buckle Grant into his car seat before walking out the door. Twenty minutes might be a conservative estimate because here is what else must be done: one last potty trip, socks, water bottles, cut an apple, make sure I've got a diaper and wipes for the Little One, bring a change of pants and underwear for Firstborn, find keys and phone, put on mascara (yes, must), sunglasses, hat(s), and okay: out the door.

Anyway, this morning we met friends at a cafe. Other moms, babies, and a three year old girl. A nice group. Claire sat on a chair and did well most of the time. Then she got bored.

And here is where I really, really struggle. Claire is not a Sally Sit Still. To be fair, not many toddlers are. Claire likes to walk jump run chase spin. She likes to go limp when you want her to stand on her own two legs. She thinks all of life is a game, and at two years old, I guess it mostly is. So I am trying to see her energy as a gift. Many days, I just enjoy who she is, just love the little person I get to spend my time with, and am amazed by how quickly she learns. She cracks me up. She amuses me with her stories. But sometimes I just want to sit and drink a coffee and taste the food in front of me instead of playing Distraction Tactics.

Anyway.

So today I found myself saying I thought I'd rather parent a teenager. Partly because there are some days when I don't think I actually sit down for longer than two or three minutes until two in the afternoon. A teenager sleeps in until two in the afternoon.

But then you've got this camp: hold on to the sweet moments time passes too quickly you'll miss this time cherish cherish cherish. Only my own Mom told me me the truth that I might not miss this time. She didn't say that in a mean way, or even a particularly knowing way. She just gave me permission to not love every little bit about parenting a toddler and baby. It's exhausting. It's a constant pull between being selfish or selfless.

Being a mama is a refining fire. And I want to be the mama that Claire needs and the mama that Grant needs; that means meeting them where they are at, leading them gently. Teaching them manners and obedience and healthy curiousity. And it means being God's love in their life. And love means being patient. Among so very many other things. But that is what I was thinking about today. Being patient. I get so frazzled. My impatience isn't a part of my self that I am pleased with; I know I need to let go. Just relax into patience instead of thinking of Patience as a project I've got to tackle. Quit fighting it, you know?

When I was twelve or thirteen my Dad gave me a Bible and on the inside cover he wrote "Be there." That is a piece of advice that sailed over my head then. But in the years since, I have found myself thinking about those two words many times. Sometimes I wonder if he meant it for that adolescent present or if he was thinking of my furture self, the mama who would need to be reminded to just be there, right where I am. Be here.

With my two-year-old and my baby, sweet ones.

Edited to add: I do enjoy the sweet moments. I do cherish this time. Don't think that I really wish it away. I love watching Claire learn something new - the other day she worked hard to color in the lines, something I've never said she should do but something she must have seen us do. She likes to read. I enjoy reading books with her. And Grant is turning into such a smiley guy, but we still have to work for his laughs. He looks around with wide eyes. I think about a year from now and who he'll be - one year in childhood is such a difference! And I think about who I might be in one year too, how my life will have changed for another year of being refined.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

on hair

There are many wonderful, serious, thoughtful, deep things I could write about today. But I'm going to delve into something trivial, because that is what I can handle before breakfast. Hair.

A few months ago, I read a comment in a magazine about the healthiest way to maintain hair: not to wash it. No chemicals. Just water. Scrub rub rub those roots. And I thought I'd give it a go. My hair hadn't gone all gorgeous luscious thick in my second pregnancy; instead, my hair was tired dry flat. So, logically, I quit washing it altogether.

"Have you noticed anything about my hair?" I asked Justin one night. Really, we hadn't been noticing anything about much of anything between his teaching and coaching, Claire, Grant, getting through dinner to bedtime. So, no, he hadn't noticed anything.

"I haven't washed it in four days," I said, "Can you tell?"

He couldn't. It might have been because I asked him in the shadows of turning off all absolutely unnecessary lights in the apartment so Claire would stay in bed rather than investigate the party (re: sacked out on the couch watching The Office) in the living room.

If you couldn't tell by day four, you could tell by day seven. I scrunched my hair and it held its shape. Natural product! I thought. And then I spent the day just knowing that my hair didn't look naturally product-ed but just unwashed. Greasy dirty. Day eight welcomed two shampoos and scalding rinses, squeaky clean tired dry flat hair.

I went to the internet. Just google "natural hair care" and you'll be directed to some of the same sites I visited. I read about all the best most natural wholesome earthy perfect ways to treat my hair and decided I would manage the baking soda and apple cider vinegar routine, adding both to my grocery list and feeling only a little silly setting them in my shower.

For about two months this is what I did every two or three days: rubbed a baking soda paste into my scalp, rinsed throroughly, then dumped diluted apple cider vinegar over my head and let it sit (soak soak soak) before rinsing thoroughly. After the first time, I raved to Justin, "My hair! Is so soft! I love it! Feel it!"

Then my soft! hair started falling out. Thanks, Grant. I was rocking the mom ponytail and smelling of apple cider vinegar. Rubbing baking soda into my scalp, and then pulling my fingers through the cider-soaking strands, I pulled out gobs of hair. Gobs and gobs.

"Maybe it's the vinegar," Justin said, perhaps just a little impressed by my matted hairbrush.

"It's hormones," I retorted. I sniffed the ends of my apple cider hair. Justin wanted to know what I'd read online next.

A few days ago I was flipping through a UK magazine called Healthy and read an article about hair woes. One of the hooks was a promise to solve thinning hair. Cannot remember what they promised regarding that, but I did read a quick blip that it's okay to use shampoo daily. You won't die. You are not less wholesome for preferring a synthetic fruity smell over apple cider vinegar stinging your nose. I took their shampooing suggestion. So now I am using a penny-sized dab rubbed in both palms, running my hands over my hair but not scrubbing. Just enough to clean the hair. I think I like this best. Mostly because I get the fruity smell back.

Well. Now you know entirely too much about how I wash my hair. Look, I really can be quite deep.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

if i stay there will be double

Not every job comes with the opportunity to uproot every two or three years. International teaching does. After fulfilling your initial two- or three-year contract, you can peek over fences annually to see if the grass is greener in Thailand or Bulgaria or Tunisia.

We aren't looking for a new school this year. After a (too) short two year stay in Colombia, we decided to commit at least three years to Kuwait. Maybe four. And  now that we're here and realizing just how comfortable it can be to not move, five years doesn't seem too unlikely. But while we aren't actively seeking employment elsewhere, we've been watching a few friends go through the Stay or Go debate.

And it's a bit infectious. We aren't leaving Kuwait, and still Justin and I both popped onto a couple of international teaching websites to check out schools in other countries. I watched a woman we arrived with carry her suitcase out the courtyard, knowing she was headed for a job fair; I felt a little flutter of envy. Not because she is leaving Kuwait at the end of the school year, but because she gets the whole New Experience thing again. She gets to fly to a new country next August.

We'll get to fly back to our sandy land. Which is fine. And a relief, really. We have friends here. We have places and routine. We have an old Pajero that takes us to our friends and places, through our routine. But I think it's the nature of any international teacher to annually flip through all the countries and wonder if you would really like living in Bolivia or Kenya.

So the other night, Justin asked me where I'd like to go next. I haven't really thought that much about what might come next - probably because my present is quite enough to manage. When I do think about where we might move, I imagine this big cloud called Eastern Europe or another equally fuzzy option called South America. Which means we'll likely end up in the Midlde East. Wait.

I told Justin I would like to move somewhere with sidewalks and clean parks for the kids. (My list is longer. I don't want to digress too much though). I mentioned our original plan B - we were going to move to Alaska if we didn't find a job abroad. We could move to Alaska and I could become an ultra runner wearing bells to keep the bears away. Justin could bike through a wildlife calendar picture every day. Claire and Grant could build forts and fish salmon for dinner. That's what it's like, right?

I asked Justin where he'd like to go. "Africa," he said. I waited for more. That was it. Africa. We know people who have lived in Africa, traveled to Africa, want to return to Africa. But Africa is big.

"We'd have to choose our country carefully," I said. I'd like to witness a lot of things in my life, but a military coup is not one of them. So maybe Africa. Go on safari before all the elephants die.

We talked about Our Next Country. When we move again, we want to move to a place where we really want to live, not a two year stop on our way to a place where we really want to live. So that is why we aren't in a rush to leave Kuwait. We don't want to hop about too much. Still, Stay or Go is a fun game to play. Easier if you aren't really forced to answer.