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.