Thursday, December 28, 2017

In Between the Old and the New

So much has happened, and yet nothing at all has happened, really. After seven full months of severe heartburn, I started to feel mostly better in November and now feel mostly normal so long as I stick to the lifestyle changes I implemented when it seemed like I might never feel better and might end up with a scope down my throat to sort things out. One of these changes is that I don't push through to get things done anymore. I can't, or I will suffer. So instead, I get things done a lot more slowly. Thus, less time for blogging and nothing of note to report.

Except I can report on the weather! It snowed, more than it has ever snowed since we moved here three and a half years ago. We were all delighted, and then it melted. We are hoping for more, but who knows. We may have to go to Switzerland if we want to make a snowman or snow angels or snow anything.

This is the time of year that we spend together as a family. Every year, J is off work between Christmas and New Year's Day, so we've developed some traditions that we now keep each year. We go out of the city for a day, and this year we went to Windsor Castle for the second year in a row, as our tickets were still valid, and we hadn't seen everything on the first go. We spend Christmas Eve eating our way through Borough Market and walking along the South Bank, and this year did that on the day before since Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday. We divide and conquer to go to the movies - J and Z to a Star Wars film, and E and me to something a bit lighter. We accomplished that today, and that rounds out our usual traditions. Now we've got a few days to just relax, sort of.

The girls and I have made friends with a lonely neighbor, so we've seen her a few times and will go again to see her tomorrow. I am going to tell you something that I think people don't often mention, but sometimes being a friend to someone who is desperately lonely can be incredibly inconvenient and uncomfortable. I think that people often assume that if these relationships are not easy, then there is something wrong. There isn't. Sometimes the people who are most worth befriending are imperfect in the way that most grates on one's nerves. Our neighbor calls me repeatedly and doesn't hesitate to complain that no one comes to see her often enough. I hate the phone and don't like pressure. It is what it is, and we manage, because we love her and do want to see her. We stop by, and she exclaims over the girls' dolls and gives us chocolate or biscuits or a prawn sandwich to take home. We make her smile and feel that her life is a little less empty than usual, and I think that it's a pretty fair deal, even though I really don't like prawn sandwiches. Once she gave us Happy Hippos, and I looooove those.

I am looking forward to 2018. We had plenty happen in 2017 that was good, but it was also a year full of work at a time that I felt unwell, and I am glad to see the tail end of this year. I've heard some people talk of this week as a week in limbo before the new year, but for me it is a time of making plans and looking forward. I've made a few simple lists and a few simple plans. I'm not much for resolutions, but I do love plans. I'm hoping that these will be good ones. We shall soon see.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oh, November

Three years and four months in London, and sometimes I still can't believe that we managed to move here, that we live here, that our everyday lives are lived out in this old city. November is my favorite month and has been in every city I've lived in except for San Francisco. November didn't feel special in San Francisco the way it does where autumn is a real thing. Here, November means leaves still changing and falling, and the sun setting ridiculously early, and grey days that are somehow comforting.

The photo above was taken at 10:30am on a Saturday. It looks a bit like evening, but it was morning, and it was just about perfect. I was wearing a coat and gloves and a thick scarf, and I felt comfortable and at peace. November is beautiful to me.

I wonder sometimes how much my love of November has to do with my date of birth - I was born at the end of November, destined to share my birthday with Thanksgiving every time it landed on a Thursday, for as long as I lived in the USA. But that was more a curse than a blessing, and if I'm speaking honestly, (and I intend to, this time at least), I would say not a blessing at all. I think that I love November despite the ubiquitousness of turkey and pumpkin desserts and small disappointments that have somehow come my way more birthdays than not. November is the soothing balm to that one day that often gets a bit lost in the midst of all the other special days.

So give me all the long walks and hot cups of coffee in my gloved hands. Bring me the early darkness and the soup on the stove and the long mornings reading in the soft autumn light that filters through our front windows. Let me breathe deep the crisp air. November will be gone all too soon.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Favorite Time of Year

Autumn is in full swing, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. And also a little bit confused, as we turned our clocks back and now find it getting dark at 4:30pm. On Friday, after Teddy's birthday party was over and friends had departed, I got to work on making cookies for a potluck we were attending Saturday night, and I thought I was terribly behind. Finding the kitchen quite dim, I entered into a light state of panic, thinking it was surely time to make dinner already. Then I looked at the clock, and it said 16:33. I wasn't behind at all, possibly even a bit ahead of schedule.


I am really loving wearing a jacket every time I leave the house, and I adore that everyone is naturally sleeping a bit later, then wanting to get cozy on the sofa as dark descends in the afternoon. This is the balance to those bright days in which everyone wakes early and runs riot in the playground. Spring and summer have their own delights, but autumn is quiet and soft and altogether lovely. The leaves crunch beneath our feet as we walk home from evening classes and lessons, and our porch light beckons to us, "Come in! It's warm inside!" Is there anything better than feeling a bit of a chill and walking into a warm house? I'm not sure there is.

Here, the shops are already fully given over to Christmas. We might give Thanksgiving a cursory nod, but each year the children get a little less excited by the prospect of turkey and homemade cranberry sauce, and I won't be sad if we let the holiday go altogether. There is still plenty of room for gratitude in a season that brings us vibrant colors and allows us to sip hot chocolate without sweating at the same time. I am thankful for that, among other things.

Mostly, I am thankful to have passed this year and made it through on the other side. A year ago we had to cancel a trip we very much wanted to make to where are our girls are from. We hastily planned a trip to the USA in order to make good use of the time J already had off work. Our time there was good and productive, but it was very much a working sort of trip, with lots of tasks to check off our list. We rescheduled the trip we were meant to make in November for April, and that undertaking was daunting to say the least. I am still proud of all four of us for what we accomplished then, making connections that needed to be made and somehow staying the course when we really didn't feel like it.

And then Z went to camp, and we moved house, and we went on a trip that was supposed to be relaxing but included an ambulance ride for E and a restriction on water play - not exactly convenient for a beach holiday. At this point, we are all happy to be home, to have a normal schedule, to enjoy this season. We may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but we sure are thankful.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Random Information, Bullet Pointed

  • I think the new Taylor Swift song, Gorgeous, is possibly the worst song ever, and some aspects of the Taylor Swift experience are (more than) a little problematic; yet my children are really adorable dancing to it, so I keep playing it for them whenever they ask for it. Motherhood is for suckers.
  • I usually delete marketing emails from various businesses whose loyalty card I carry in my overly-full, cat-themed wallet, but if it says "new flavour" or "Christmas food" in the subject line, I open it. This is how I know that Costa has something called "Billionaire's Hot Chocolate" on offer, and Marks & Spencer has what is basically turducken bedecked with bacon available to order for your holiday festivities. I am not ordering the turducken, but I will have one of those hot chocolates.
  • I also open emails from Houzz, almost every time, for the purpose of ogling other people's refurbished Victorian and Edwardian properties. In my fantasies, we will not be renting forever, and I will need to know how to make my bathroom into a sophisticated yet functional space. Obviously.
  • My daily schedule includes coming back to bed to drink my coffee while my cats sit on my lap. This is for real something that I've built into my day. If you knew my cats, you'd understand. They cannot handle their lives if I do not offer them this service.
  • Which leads me to the point that I should probably mention that our cats do not roam the house at night. That's because two thirds of them because first rate jerks around 3am. I value my sleep more than I value my cats' need to connect with me while I sleep. They can roam the dining room, kitchen, and laundry room while they wait for me to wake up and allow them to be free range again.
  • And speaking of free range cats, there is a cultural difference here regarding the nicest way to care for your cats. In the US, I basically had to agree to keep our cats exclusively indoors to be able to bring them home from the shelter, as otherwise I was considered to be a potential CAT KILLER. Here, the shelters often require that the cats have outdoor space available; otherwise I would be considered to be a CAT TORTURER, denying my cats an opportunity to express their true nature. Well, we have some gigantic tom cats in our neighborhood that can be heard grappling every night, and our little guy is, well, little, so I'm going to go with the US cultural practices in this case.
  • E worries regularly about our little cat not getting big enough. He is nearly a year old (there will be a party, because: cat lady reasons), and it appears that he will remain on the smaller side. I don't mind at all, but there is a lot of hand-wringing from E followed by reassurances from me, and it's a little bit exhausting at this point. Teddy is fine! Just let him be who he is! We have bigger problems than our cat being small!
  • Speaking of problems, our new house solved so many of mine. My kids sometimes express that they miss the old house, and I really cannot comprehend that. But to be fair, most of the improvements affect me the most, as nobody was really lining up to help me wash dishes in the last house, nor cook most of our meals with minimal counter space to work with, and my kids didn't care that I had heart palpitations every time one of them leaned out from the stairs and risked falling to her death (or more realistically, to a broken bone or two at the very least) to the dining room below.
  • Christmas is coming. I have become one of those annoying people who is happy about the Christmas things appearing in stores in October. Because Christmas lights! And most importantly, Christmas food! (See random information, bullet point two, above.)
  • Half term week is nearly over. I've wiped down our kitchen counters every day, because I have time to care about the sugar my children spill every time they make a cup of tea. Time well spent! But next week, we're back to the usual, and I've got some additional meetings to boot. Welcome back to reality, in which a thin dusting of sugar will become the norm again.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Answer to an FAQ: Socialization in Home Education

My kids aren't always alone on a beach, I promise.

The question I get asked about homeschool more than any other is regarding socialization. I think most homeschool families would tell you the same. (Second in line is, "What about physics and chemistry?" but we can get to that later.) This seems to be the focus of most homeschool critics, and in some cases for good reason. (This article provides what I consider to be a balanced view.) Not all homeschoolers get socialization right. However, not all homeschoolers get academics right either, and we could say the same thing of schools. That socialization comes up more often than other questions baffles me a bit, but I am happy to give an answer as to what we do in our family and what our priorities are.

First, I want to point out that we consider socialization to have equal standing with other developmental and educational needs. As a homeschooling family, we need to be purposeful about everything we do in regards to raising our children to be part of their community and to contribute to the society in which they find themselves as adults. I will sometimes say that I am  not worried about a particular subject or need, but that doesn't mean that I'm not attending to it. It means that the method we are using is working, and I am confident in our abilities to change course if necessary.

I find that people hold up school as "normal" socialization, and this is for the obvious reason that it is what is available to most children. However, is what is the cultural norm truly the best for children? In some cases, it works fine, but in other cases, it does not. I value norms that lead to healthy development, but if that is not the case, then I am happy to do things differently. I don't believe that being in a group of similarly aged children five days a week, six hours a day, is necessarily supportive of healthy development for all children. It really depends on what other supports are in place, as well as on the child's individual needs.

When it comes to socialization, as with most other things, I ask the question, "When could my children use support, and when is it better for them to figure it out on their own?" There is certainly value in learning to resolve conflict, but that doesn't come naturally to everyone. One of my children is very good at it with very little support, whereas my other child has needed additional help in reading others' cues and figuring out solutions that work for everyone. I prefer situations in which there is a supportive, trusted adult available to assist my children when they are struggling. I also think it is important that we adults make note of ways in which our children may be approaching situations in a way that is inappropriate or unkind and help them make better choices. The idea isn't to hover and micromanage, but to be available and to use observation in order to make sure that guidance is given when necessary.

I also ask the question, "What is working for my children in terms of their desires for socialization?" In our family, we have one introvert and one extravert. This certainly presents challenges, and I will be honest that it can be hard work to make sure that what we are doing works for everybody. At school, there is a one-size-fits-most method, and this is geared to those who are extraverted. For us, we have a fits-for-our-family method, geared toward both introvert and extravert needs, and I am constantly observing and adjusting to make sure that it continues to work.

Beyond just knowing how to interact with various people they will encounter in their lives, I also want my children to be comfortable in situations in which their socialization preferences are not possible. For my introverted child, this means figuring out how to navigate being in large groups of people. For my extraverted child, this means becoming comfortable with sometimes doing things alone. I don't want either of my children to grow up only recognizing their own needs and point of view, and we talk about this a lot in regards to socialization, then give opportunities to practice. I want each of my children to have time in their own comfort zone as well as opportunities to grow and expand their skills.

Right now, we are able to balance both girls' needs with a combination of activities. I sign E up for group activities that also meet her needs for sensory input. Currently she is in a ballet class and is on a wait list for tumbling. I am supplementing with extra playground time until she gets into the tumbling class. We have a playground around the corner where she quickly finds a friend and will happily play for hours. (Z often brings a book for this.) Z is in a small group violin lesson and a larger group theatre course. These are the classes we do weekly, which are not homeschool specific. We also attend a semi-weekly home education group that I now organize, as I found it so beneficial to both of my children that when the original group leader had a baby and decided not to continue organizing, I was happy to step in. Through this group, we have met many families with whom we meet up regularly. There are also myriad one-off group activities organized throughout London for home educators, and we frequently sign up for those as well.

For both of my children, I find that familiarity is a good thing. I think this is where school makes things easy, as children get to see the same group of kids each day. However, there are certainly ways to ensure familiarity for my children. Obviously the regularly scheduled classes they attend provide this. In addition, we arrange to meet up at parks with other families that we've met in various activities, and we visit each other in our homes. My children ask to see particular friends, and I make arrangements. We also attend church two to three times per month and do additional social activities with church friends. We are truly not lacking in opportunities to socialize, and sometimes even my extraverted child finds it to be too much and wants to stay home.

Really, there is a ton more I could write about this, but I fear it would become incredibly boring if I droned on. If you have questions about what we do and why, please feel free to ask them in the comments. I know there are some holes in what I've written that may need to be filled, and I am happy to clarify, whether just in the comments or within another blog post. I've got it in mind that I want to write a bit more about family life, which may cover some things that are socialization-related. For now, let me know if there is anything that you would like to know. Perhaps if homeschool socialization is less shrouded in mystery, and if those of us who home educate can answer less defensively and more straightforwardly, there will be enough information available that we can put this question to rest.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Half Term Happiness

Here in the UK, the school year is split into three terms. Each term lasts twelve weeks, with a one week break halfway through each one. This is called half term, and I'm often asked, "What are you doing for half term?" The answer is usually much more boring than for families who have children in school. Because we spent a week on holiday early this month, we continue on with our usual curriculum routine. E is learning to read, and Z is progressing with maths, and it would seem silly to not do it when we're in our groove. Plus, we have more time for study in half term, and we can do it in a more relaxed way.

Let me explain.

While we do workshops and go to some regular meet ups with other home educators, most of the activities that Z and E are involved in are open to all children, and thus the scheduling tends to align with the term dates. Additionally, most places we meet with other home educators will have special half term activities, and so those spaces are not available to us. Half term becomes a week that we have nothing in particular to do. And I love it.

For the first time since we returned from Nice, I am caught up on washing the laundry and the dishes. Not having to drop everything to prepare a child for a class or lesson meant that I worked straight through the day, adding school readings into the rhythm of the day between the first loads of laundry and dishes and the remaining ones. Not only that, but I didn't even have to take time out to get dressed. It was all pajamas, all the time. Fantastic!

Tomorrow we'll make a leisurely trip to the library. The days after that, who knows? Perhaps I'll finally organise the homeschool group art supplies. Perhaps the children will set up a Lego city in the dining room. We can do what we like, with no schedule to keep, and it's grand.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ignorance is Bliss

We are in the middle of an at home day, sorely needed after two days of being on the go. Sometimes I feel a bit weird about taking these days, knowing that many (maybe most?) people around me do not see the value in it. As much as there's been a cultural push to simplify, hard work is still held up as the standard. If we are not busy constantly, aren't we just being lazy or indulgent?

But we are busy in our own way on these days, and there is value in rest. I say this having mostly emerged from seven months of stress-induced severe heartburn. I tried a variety of interventions to help, and now that things are mostly stable, the thing that keeps me comfortable is rest. If I miss even a couple of hours of sleep at night, or if I have too many days jam packed with activities, I don't feel well. So I rest. I make time for it. I see very, very clearly how important it is.

I have for quite some time been looking for work to do part time from home, something I could do for five or ten hours a week to boost our income a bit. So far, nothing has worked out. It is work to find work, and mostly my days go by with few moments to spare. But I do find some spare moments to write, and that is partly why I am here, to do this small bit of work, to keep my skills somewhat sharp in the time I have.

I also come here to write because I have read others' writing, and it has helped me. I hope that these small things I share might be of help to others. Sometimes it is good to read a new idea or a different perspective to what is culturally popular. Sometimes I have been prompted to ask questions that I wouldn't have guessed needed answering. Mostly, I have felt less alone by finding others who are also choosing to live their lives in a way that is different than what the mainstream culture dictates. And I love that we give that to each other, for free.

Which brings me to this bit of awkwardness. I am in the process of putting a PayPal button on this blog. Not many people read this blog since I let it lie dormant for so long, and I'm guessing most people are in the same position we find ourselves in, of needing to be careful with finances. I am planning for that button to be wholly ignored. But I'm putting it there anyway, just in case. Because you never know. I do it in the same way that I "like" and comment on every Boden Facebook post that offers a free coat or dress. Expecting nothing, but knowing that if I don't try, I definitely will not win.

I am going to continue writing here, whether I ever get paid or not. I like doing work for free if it benefits others, and indeed this is what I do in real life also. It gives me joy to give my time and efforts, and so I want the few of you who read to know that the PayPal button does not exist there because I expect anything from you. I gladly give away these thoughts, and am all the happier if they are of some benefit to someone who might not read them elsewhere. I'm glad you are reading. As you were. Carry on.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Same Song, Different Verse (Our Holiday in Nice)

We keep going back to Nice. We can't help it. It suits us. We have visions of traveling elsewhere, but in my mind it is in addition to and not instead of. Nice has been good to us. We know how to be there, just be. At this point in our lives, other trips we are committed to making regularly are a lot of work, and none of us want to make that sort of effort for what is supposed to be a trip purely for pleasure.

There were some snags in our relaxation plans this time. E's nose met with the corner of a coffee table in a way that was rather alarming, so we have added "ambulance ride" to her list firsts. That was on our first full day there, and it was surely not the best way to begin what was to be a relaxing week. However, we soldiered on, and by the end of the week, we'd managed to enjoy ourselves despite some restrictions on water play.

Thanks to two other big trips in this past year, plus our move to a new house, our budget was a bit low, but we still managed to make the best of things. Because we get an apartment for the week, we could eat most of our meals in and eliminate excess food expense. Our one big splurge was ice cream every night, which is a mainstay of our holidays in Nice. But all our activities were free. Picnics on the beach, a walk up to the Chateau, playing in the fountains of the Coulée Verte both day and night - these things were easily accessible and truly fun. We had a good time, even though we were a little bit broke.

Now we are home again, and that holds its own kind of pleasure. Going to Nice in early October seems perfect to me, as we get all the sun with temperatures that suit us, plus lower prices than in the high season, and then we come back to autumnal London, to dig into the coziness that the shorter, colder days can offer us. I'm sitting here in a wool cardigan and fake fur lined boots, happy as a clam. My children are dressing up in multiple layers and are not disappointed.

Next comes Halloween, then we enter the lead up into Christmas, with all the lights and foods and mulled wine and everything that we love about those dark days that are made to sparkle. I'm ready for it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Seven Years a Mother

Seven years ago today, I became a mother. Not in the usual way, and the title of mother to my children does not belong only to me. I am and always will be the second mother, and I am okay with that. I'll just be frank here and say that if you're not okay with being the second mother, then adoption is not a good way for you to become a parent. You need to be firm in putting yourself dead last in the hierarchy, because that is where you belong. The child comes first, and after that the first family, and dead last: you. This is not what I set out to write today, but it suddenly feels very important to mention it.

I have had the pleasure of loving my Z in person for seven whole years. I'm still in awe of the fact that she allowed me to love her, and even more bowled over by her love for me. If she had run screaming from me when I asked to hold her, that would have been understandable. I was a stranger to her, as was J. But she took a chance on us, and we are so very lucky that she did.

Z is kind and thoughtful and generous. She is the very best big sister. She is clever and creative. She has worked hard on so many things that matter in her life. I have done my best to labor alongside her and help her in any way I can, but in truth it is her remarkable spirit which has made all the difference. I don't think I could be prouder of all that she has accomplished in these seven years. When I say I am the luckiest mother, you'd better believe that I mean it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Having Houseguests (and Liking It)

My parents have been with us for this past week, and this morning we rode the Tube out to Heathrow to see them off. It was a good visit, and their stay here in our house was made easier than ever by the fact that our living room - which doubles as our guest room - has a door. Plus, we have that second loo. It's night and day different from having houseguests in our old house. It is more comfortable for everyone.

As an introvert, it can be hard to have people stay with us, but what I'm now finding is that I can truly enjoy the process. I like the part when we prepare for our guests - it's always good to have a reason to tidy up and make the house look its best - and the part when we see people we love and get to spend time with them. The anticipation of having a short time that is different than our day to day also appeals. I like going places that we might not take the time to go and having more people around my table. (In this new house, I also have a bigger table.)

And then there is the part when they head home. As much as I love each and every one of the people who have come to stay with us, and I am happy to have had them here, there's something truly special about the hush that falls over our house when guests have gone. It's not that it's quieter than any other time, of course. It's the magic of comparison. It is quieter than it's been when we have had extra people in the house. And after putting off laundry and dishes and such to be with guests and take them out and about, I find I am happy to get back to the usual housekeeping business. Returning the house to its usual arrangement is soothing. It feels peaceful.

We've got this afternoon to attend to this task, and tomorrow also. If possible, I try to bookend visits with a day or two of nothing-in-particular. Before arrival, the air is charged with anticipation. I've long given up on the idea of having everything perfectly clean and organized before guests arrive, but we do want to make things our own version of "just right" to make sure our guests are comfortable. After departure, that charge is gone, and it is like the return to normal breathing after a good run. The process is not quite over, but the hardest work is done.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Ten Years Married

Three days ago, J and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. Well, maybe celebrated is a bit of a generous word for it. We had tomato soup and grilled cheese, which is pretty standard Friday night fare at our house, and we had it with our children, like normal. He brought me flowers, and I'd ordered a small cake, and we both posted wedding photos on Instagram. Done. This is how we mark a decade of married life.

I am not disappointed with our celebration, or lack thereof. One thing that is really lovely about ten years together is how we've settled into our life together as a couple and now as a family, since we started adding kids three years in. I was thinking of the anniversaries that came before this, and we didn't do anything spectacular for those either. Because it's just not who we are, or what we want or need.

What I've discovered over ten years of marriage is that the most important thing for marriage satisfaction is to shed the expectations that don't fit, both the ones that I held personally due to my own preferences and personality, and the ones I was taught to have. Ten years in, it's still a work in progress, but I look over at the man I married and see that we are steady, despite the lack of date nights and emphasis on other things which my American evangelical Christian upbringing taught me were important.

Would it be nice to go out alone with my husband? Of course it would. Would that take more effort than both of us are currently willing to make? Yes. If it didn't, then we'd be doing it a lot more often. And yet, here we are, with our tomato soup and grilled cheese and small chocolate cake, planning where to put the flowers so the cat won't eat them while our children are, once again, being unbearably loud. And happy enough with it, too.

I think a lot of lies get told about relationships, both inadvertently and because people honestly believe these things to be true. We're told how to show that we value our relationships, but those displays of value don't necessarily fit. We've had to learn what shows value to us. It doesn't matter how it looks to others, if they shake their heads at the choices we've made and think that surely we are doing it wrong and thus setting ourselves up for a fall. Because here we are. Ten years in, and still happy together. We've learned how quickly the time goes. Whatever is trying in the moment will surely pass. If it's important enough, we'll talk about it. We are both adults, capable of stating our wants and needs, capable of allowing things that aren't our favorite in pursuit of the greater good.

At ten years in, our life is peaceful, steady, good. I married a man who is peaceful, steady, and good, and we have weathered some storms together and come out on the other side. Knowing this is a comfort. If we've walked through hard things together already, we can do it again. But for now, there is peace, steadiness, goodness. There is a new home and another three years permission to stay in the country we've made our home. I am grateful for the ten years we've lived as husband and wife, and I look forward to the next ten.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

In the Course of Seven Months

Seven months gone - where have they gone?

To normal life and to extraordinary life events, the most notable of which was a trip to a whole other continent where some things went terribly wrong and other things went delightfully right, and I ended up with severe heartburn for five months. And then at the end of that, we moved. Just across the street and down a bit, but still. My Z went to camp (in a tent!) for two weeks while we moved, and I felt incredibly proud of her. We've begun a new school year, and it feels sweet and easy because after five years, I am confident in my abilities and my kids' abilities. Which is not to say that it's not work, but it's joyful work.

As is the work in our new house. The new is place bigger, just a bit, but the bit matters. We have a third bedroom which is used as an office, and J finally has his own desk. We put the children in the biggest bedroom and gave them a trundle bed, and there is space for most of their toys as well as plenty of floor space for setting up Lego and Playmobil towns, cities, what-have-you. Just tuck that trundle back under the bed for the daytime, and a whole world opens up.

There is also a dishwasher.

And a second toilet.

And room for a big fridge.

My life has been transformed!

And for the first time in three years, we are living in a house with all of our own furniture. I did my best to truly be grateful for a home in which we didn't have to purchase all the furniture straight away, but the pieces that didn't suit us had begun to grate on my nerves in a way that felt inescapable.

And then there was the problem with the hot water.

It was time to move, and this new place feels like a gift.

So here we are, in a house that feels to us like a mansion, filling it with things that make it our own home. So many choices to be made! So much furniture to assemble! But we are nearing the end of the hard work, just in time for houseguests. And after that, a proper holiday, just the four of us in one of our favorite places.

Life is good.

More writing to come. Now that I have a dishwasher, I've got the time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A New Little Thing

tiny little teddy

I got a kitten for my birthday. The birthday itself was at the end of November, but we didn't connect with the right kitty until mid-December. Our sweet cat Eponine passed away a little over a year and a half ago, and for a long time it seemed good to just have the other two. But I started to feel like it might be a good thing to have a third cat again - partly because I'd gotten used to having three, and partly because I wanted my children to have a pet that they felt belonged as much to them as to me. It also seemed like a kitten might cheer us all up after some autumn disappointments, and so we got one.

Now we all share my birthday present, and that is a good thing. He is a sweet, playful little boy who we call Teddy, his full name being Theodore Laurence, after one of our favorite boy characters in literature. We also considered Gilbert Blythe, but we determined that he looked more like a Teddy. He's a bit of a rascal, which is delightful after some years of two cats whose main hobbies include napping and also napping. He allows E to pick him up, even though he really doesn't like it, and he willingly climbs into Z's lap when she is reading. He runs and jumps and makes toys out of everything. He likes food of all sorts, including cookies. Nothing is safe when left alone with Teddy, and this so far has been a delight rather than a burden. Who knew that a cat would like toast? Not us. But we are ever so glad to have one that does.

Welcome, Teddy, to our family, to this crazy life. Thanks for being a soft, purring presence when the world seems a little off balance. We are all grateful to have you and hope you will be with us for many, many years.