Tuesday, October 30, 2007

1,000 gifts

18. A day that goes well...full of love and joy and finished tasks.

19. A suitcase unpacked and clothes put away...a clean bedroom.

20. The end of several days of crankiness and endless hours of LOUD crying. Cheery tones, sparkling, laughing eyes of mischief, a wide grin.

21. Learning something new. "These my thumbs, Mommy?" as Green Bean walks around fists in the air, thumbs wriggling around on top.

22. Butternut squash baked whole, skin browned and glossy, coming out of the oven.

23. Picky eater hungry enough for supper that he impatiently awaits the chicken and mashed potatoes, cleaning his plate without need for prodding.

24. My Hero's inability to fathom that if he just tried the squash, Green Bean would still not like My Hero's favorite vegetable of all time cooked just right. Pathetic protests that, "I don't like squash!" as he reluctantly accepts one spoonful into his mouth, grimaces and swallows it down, shakes his head in recoiling disgust. My Hero's disbelief.

25. New CD of children's songs from Grandma and Grampa. Song #1 played over and over by a three year old who can be taught how to work the CD player remote on his own. "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" repeated, repeated, repeated.

26. This example of listening that showed me clearly that I have selective hearing for God's commands.

27. A warm, fluffy bathrobe for cold mornings and evenings.

28. Green Bean bringing me my slippers unbidden, and the look of joy on his face from my gratitude.

29. "Time for a rough time with me, Daddy?" as My Hero is preparing for a long day's sleep after working all night. "Yes, it's time for a rough time," as he grabs Green Bean and throws him on the bed, growling and shaking him amidst Green Bean's squeals and laughter.

30. The hour of quiet in the morning before anyone else is awake, reading holy words, communing with the High King, reflecting on life, planning the day.

31. Warm coffee releasing fog's clenching fingers from my mind and thoughts.

32. Purring kitten rubbing my feet, jumping on my shoulders, sniffing my coffee.

33. A fresh new day. Although after yesterday's successes and delights, I'm quite sure there's no way this one could measure up.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

We're home again

I'm back! After a week or nearly two of vacation, I'm putting huge amounts of effort into getting back into our routine. Dragging myself out of bed a few minutes ago was one of the hardest things I've done in a while. Every limb and finger is stiff and heavy in protest.

Highlights of our trip:

1. The 20 1/2 hour drive to Illinois. It was our first time driving since we've had kids, and I knew it might get ugly. However, some friends of ours from our small group offered us the use of their minivan with a built in DVD player, and let me tell you, friends, that is the way to travel with toddlers. Green Bean and Peanut Butter rarely watch videos, but since they were going to be strapped down for 20+ hours at a time, I figured we might as well try it and see if it helped the time go by more quickly. We could tell the DVDs were working their magic by the fact that the two minutes it took to switch DVDs were punctuated with moans and whines and fussing.

2. Baby Newton. We ordered it from Netflix before we left. A couple of friends of ours lent us large amounts of kids' videos...Baby Einstein ones, and Veggie Tales, and some Disney. After several Veggie Tales videos we put Baby Newton in...and both boys were instantly riveted. They even laughed out loud at one part. Clearly the videos are designed for kids their age, because My Hero and I couldn't really see the appeal. (I know all the words to the crayon song by heart now, though.) We tried to keep a variety of videos going for the rest of the trip, but most of the time Green Bean just wanted "Nut Flix." Even the other Baby Einstein videos we had were far less preferred than the Netflix. Thank you, Baby Newton.

"Sometimes, when I wanna have some fun,
I draw a picture with crayons
To show everyone..."

3. Grandma and Grampa. Of course. They were so wonderful with the boys. We arrived on Wednesday, and my brother-in-law's wedding was Saturday. So the first few days of our visit were a flurry of preparations and activity. Then Sunday, after the wedding was over and the guests had gone (besides us), Grandma took the boys and spent the day with them while My Hero and I went into Chicago to visit my sister and her husband. Grandpa took Green Bean with him to his pumpkin stand to "help" him, and took him on his combine as he harvested corn, and fascinated both boys with all the farm equipment and produce.

4. Being on the farm in the fall. My Hero's parents live in Illinois; mine live in New England. We'll never be close to both of them at the same time, so we're always torn. We've been longing to visit Illinois during the summer or fall (we take a yearly trip to visit every January, as soon after Christmas as My Hero can be spared from his job), and just haven't been able to afford it. Which is why we chose to drive this time. We were actually really glad that My Hero's brother and fiancee decided to make their wedding date an October day. There's something about fall in Illinois that's warm and beautiful...it's as if harvest time in Illinois is more celebrated than in New England, in spite of our beautiful foliage. I felt it each year we lived there, and again this time during our visit.

5. Picking pumpkins. My in-laws have a pumpkin stand in town, and acres and acres of pumpkins that supply it. My Hero and I volunteered to help pick several times...it's fun work! On Friday, the day before the wedding, we manned the pumpkin stand while my father-in-law built an archway of cornstalks and got the stand ready for the wedding. It was an outdoor wedding held right at the pumpkin stand, with bales of straw as seats for the guests. It was a unique and beautiful setting. The stand was already beautifully decorated with corn stalks and pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn. It was a casual wedding, with the bride and groom in jeans, and since both my brother-in-law and his new wife are artsy, they pulled it off with creativity and class.

6. Friends. Tuesday evening was spent with friends. Two couples our age that we hated to leave when we moved to New England. We spend an evening together each time we visit, and it's so much fun.

Also my dear friend and college roommate lives in Chicago, and we hadn't seen each other in probably four years. We recently were back in touch, and it turns out she lives about a mile away from my sister and brother-in-law. So I got to visit her in her apartment for a little while on Sunday. We could've spent hours catching up, I think. Her life seems so glamorous next to mine sometimes. Living in Chicago. Travelling to the ends of the earth every few years. Single and free. It was fun to enter her world for a few minutes.

7. Something I never anticipated, had no inkling would happen...we brought a kitten home with us. I should've known after my post of a few weeks ago about not owning pets and not wanting to that it would all change on me. The farm has a small colony of barn cats, and my sister-in-law's friend found a stray on his doorstep last week and brought it to live on the farm. The stray was a small kitten who spent the next few days rubbing against our legs whenever we were outside, tripping Green Bean up with his friendliness, mewing pitifully. Wednesday as we were packing to leave I joked to My Hero about bringing the kitten home with us. My Hero responded that if we ever did, this one would be the one. I was shocked that he showed any hint of inclination, and after that my heart tugged me towards making the arrangements. A cat is independent, I told myself. Doesn't cost a lot of money. Some, though...he'll need to be fixed. And he'll need cat food. And a litter box. And shots. And probably worm pills.

What made us decide was his personality. He purrs and cuddles anyone who picks him up. He lets Peanut Butter scoop him up in his non-gentle arms and carry him around. He's super tolerant of rough handling by two small boys, and he's a beautiful little kitty.

We named him Tuttles, and he's ours. He survived the 22 hour car ride home by sleeping in one lap after another, and uses the litter box without fail. To be perfectly honest, he did spend several hours of the night prowling all over the van and mewing loudly, making it hard to fall asleep and waking the boys. But I think over all he handled the trip extremely well for a kitten.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Two Reasons I'm Thankful

He still has two teeth! His gums have cleared from dark purple and red and white to an almost uniform pink, and his tooth is right where it should be. Miraculous. Thank you for the reassuring words, you who commented. You're right...if he did lose the tooth he'd have an adorable one tooth smile and I'd have a story to tell. (=

His breath smelled awful for a few days. It smelled exactly like my own mouth smelled when I had my wisdom teeth pulled. The smell of blood, I guess. My Hero said he remembers the smell from when he had his own wisdom teeth out, AND when I had mine out, since that was an event we went through together the first year we were married. He helped me change the gauze they packed in my mouth, and he nearly passed out. He loves me truly.

Julie from Using My Words wrote a wonderful post about how she and her husband met and hooked up. It got me thinking about the early days with My Hero.

We met in college sophomore year. Apparently we'd been in several classes together before, but the moment I met him is clear in my memory one morning at the end of developmental psychology class. Out of the blue, the guy beside me looked up as we were leaving and said, "I like your sweater." And smiled. The comment caught me up short, because he talked to me, and I didn't know him. I spent the next few days noticing him around campus and wondering who he was. We started talking to each other before, during, after class. He offered me a ride to the airport for my flight home for spring break. Normally I took the El (Chicago's public transportation), and there's nothing quite like maneuvering through the streets and around the crowded El cars with a bulky suitcase. I gladly accepted, and then cringed as I anticipated it. I have an unfortunate disability when it comes to making small talk with people I don't know well, and I knew the drive from campus to Ohare could be long and awkward. It wasn't. Conversation flowed around topics of all kinds, comfortably. We arrived at the airport and he offered to wait for my flight with me. I accepted because this was something unexpectedly good going on.

He's still my favorite person to just "be" with. He's comfortable and fun and funny. He's so different from me, but we click.

I had barely turned 23 and he was still 22 when we married, and looking back I realise how little I still knew about him then. We'd been dating for a couple of years, but he could've been a real loser. One of those people you hear about that are wonderful until the wedding day, then the chase is over and they slump back into being the self-centered boors they preferred to be. Not My Hero. He's still surprising me with ways he finds to put me first, with how hard he works to keep our marriage strong.

Committing for life to someone is a risk. I realise that more now than I ever did then. I breath words of thankfulness to God for his surprising grace, and I wonder how much my parents' prayers for me affected my choices.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Don't. Bump. The. Tooth.

I have a painful achy feeling just above my lungs. My nerves are raw, and I can't relax.

Peanut Butter, my sweet little 14 month old boy, tipped the kitchen chair he was standing on over backwards and knocked his upper front tooth almost out. As in, it was hanging so loose that it looked like it was twice as long as his other tooth. I pushed it back in, but it bled a lot and he sobbed for a long time in my arms as I walked around the livingroom / kitchen area holding a cold washcloth to his mouth.

This was Monday evening.

As soon as Peanut Butter had calmed down enough for me to hold him with one arm, I searched the internet for medical / dental advice for a toddler who has knocked a tooth loose. I decided it wasn't an emergency room emergency, and that I would just keep an eye on him, and that there's a chance the roots will take hold again and he won't loose it. I don't expect that to happen. But I'm still on pins and needles lest he bump it again and knock it all the way out.

Tuesday morning Peanut Butter had made it through the night just fine, but his mouth was clearly tender. I knew I should avoid hard foods like apples, but I wasn't sure about the coffee cake I had made for breakfast, so I called the medical advice line available as part of our health insurance package. The kind nurse on the other end of the line asked me questions about his condition and advised soft foods. "Like what?" I asked. "Like pudding, jello...oatmeal." Okay. Oatmeal. That's a breakfast food, one we eat a lot. I can't imagine putting my little guy on a diet of pudding and jello for days on end. He'd never want to switch back. So he had oatmeal for breakfast, mashed potato for lunch, cottage cheese and mandarine oranges for a snack (in which I was reminded that Peanut Butter, who eats almost anything, cannot abide cottage cheese), squash and broccoli cheese soup for supper, and yogurt for a bedtime snack. Those foods are the extent of the soft foods I've managed to scrounge from my cupboards and refrigerator, but they're not a bad variety.

I just can't relax about his loose tooth. The idea that he may get to keep his baby tooth and not have a gap in his mouth for the next 4 or 5 years if I can just keep him from damaging it further is a terrible responsibility on my shoulders, honestly. I know it's not the end of the world if his tooth does fall out, and I know it'll probably happen anyway, but just knowing I may be able to prevent it if I'm just vigilent enough to prevent further falls and bumps... well, it's exhausting.

And that's not my only worry. I worry that his mouth will get infected and I won't recognize it until it's serious. I'm not normally a worrier, and I know I need a change in perspective, but I can't seem to shake this constant feeling of stress that's blanketing my days.

I'm reluctant to take him in to be seen by a pediatrician because I'm afraid it'll be unnecessary trauma for him and unnecessary expense for us, just to be told to "keep an eye on it." I guess in a day or two, depending on if it's better or worse, I'll have a better idea of whether or not to have his mouth examined by a professional.

Sometimes being a mother is a terrible responsibility. I feel like I should know what to do, but I'm so afraid of making a mistake.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Family Dynamics

5. Describe the dynamics in your immediate family...how do you and your husband and kids all work together, what are the personalities, do your kids relate or remind you more of either you or your husband, and so forth?

My Hero and I are a team. That's our goal anyway. We forget and start pulling in opposite directions sometimes, or start competing against each other instead of together. But our goal, our mindset, is that we're in this life together, and we're going to win, together.

It's common knowledge that having kids brings new challenges to a marriage, but Green Bean's arrival was such an adventure... even though it was a difficult year as My Hero worked terribly long hours at two jobs for a while, the excitement and challenges of having a child and watching him grow and change was mutually enthralling.

We agreed on the timing of child #2 and soon Peanut Butter was growing inside me. His arrival was welcome, but the first nine months were far more difficult than we ever expected. He was such a tiny little peanut, smaller at birth than Green Bean was, but so LOUD. He was opinionated, terribly opinionated for someone so entirely dependent on others for his every whim. And one of his strongest opinions, beginning when he was just one month old, was that no one was worthy of holding him besides his mama. No one. Not Daddy. Not Grammie.

That made his first year of life exhausting for us. I'd leave the two boys with My Hero some evenings when I had other obligations, but I'd come home to a husband on the edge of breakdown and a howling baby who would instantly quiet and snuggle into my shoulder when I took him. I couldn't leave him in the church nursery, though I tried week after week. He wouldn't settle down after a while like most children will when their parents are no longer in sight; he'd keep the nursery a room of LOUDness and misery until I came to relieve the poor nursery workers. I felt guilty leaving him with anyone...not because I was worried about Peanut Butter, but because I knew how miserable and desperate his caregivers would be with a screaming child who couldn't be appeased. It was a long year.

Peanut Butter has gradually changed, allowing more and more people into his sphere of interaction. My Hero, my 13 year old brother, my mom, certain nursery workers...as he learned to crawl and then walk his world opened up and he was more independent and the boundaries grew. Now he's fine in the nursery every week, I leave him with my mom regularly without hitches, and he'll reach out to be held by certain other people he knows and loves. He still dislikes strangers holding or touching him, and I suspect it's a permanent part of his personality, but he's no longer tied to me, and My Hero and I can breath again.

We feel like we made it through a time of difficulty and testing, and it certainly plays into why we're hesitant about when to consider adding a third child. My eternal optimism says that number three will be a happy, laid back child who demands little and adds supreme amounts of joy, because birth order books say that the third tends to have a more relaxed personality. My realistic husband knows there are no guarantees.

Green Bean and Peanut Butter, ages 3 and 1, are starting to play together more and more. Green Bean seems to love his little brother, though Peanut Butter disorders his orderly play. Green Bean needs to be with people, at least in the same room, and Peanut Butter counts as people now. He'll holler for Peanut Butter to come into the bedroom with him to play so he won't be alone.

Peanut Butter marches to his own beat. I read an article about people being either emotional transmitters or emotional receivers, how some people set the mood, and others are affected by the moods of people around them. Green Bean is a receiver, Peanut Butter is a transmitter. Green Bean will be howling in anger on his bed, and Peanut Butter will walk in and smile happily at him, making cheerful yips and gurgles, oblivious to his brothers' pain. But when Peanut Butter is upset, the whole house cringes and begins to share his anguish.

My Hero is a transmitter, and I am a receiver. When I finally understood this, I realised why I could never seem to set the mood in our home. I've heard several times that the wife has the power to set the tone of life at home, and that it's important to keep a good attitude. But I could never figure out how. I know I really do set the tone for the day when it's just the kids and me...if I have a plan and keep us all going doing fun and productive things we're likely to have a good day. Likewise when My Hero is home and I do all I can to keep the day running smoothly, it definitely helps. But when My Hero is in a bad mood, there's not much I can do, aside from sliding into a worse mood, to bring him out of it. Trying used to frustrate me to no end. Now I just accept it. He's not a receiver. To be fair, I think My Hero struggles with pulling me out of a bad mood, too. When I know that's what he's trying to do I feel obstinate.

My Hero is the spender, I'm the saver. But he's so balanced. We have goals for our money, and he's willing to curb his lifestyle to get there. When I met him he was driving a Mustang. It wasn't his dream car...he LOVES cars, thinks about them, admires them, and always has a dream car in mind. In college it was the Audi TT, not a super expensive car, but beyond his reach at the time. I tell him that by the time we can afford another car, the 2001 Audi TT should be in our price range. But I don't think we could fit car seats in the back. After we married he sold his Mustang for something that wouldn't have such high insurance rates, and we currently own two Escorts over 5 years old. Talk about sacrifice.

My Hero has the big picture perspective, and I'm the details person.

My Hero is good at driving and knowing where he's going and trying out new ways to get there. I'm good at reading a map.

I think Green Bean has a lot of my traits...he inherited my (lack of) coordination, my appreciation for orderliness, my sensitive conscience. He's like My Hero in his need to have people around.

Peanut Butter is stronger, more independent, more like My Hero. He's unconcerned about following the rules, he has inherent common sense, he has a good sense of balance and is sturdy on his legs, and he is determined to try anything he sees Green Bean do.

The original question is one that's hard to exhaust, but it's a subject I love to think about and analyse.

Thank you, Julie, for the interview questions, and I hope I haven't bored you to tears with my post-length answers to each of them.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Silver Bells...

4. What are your favorite holidays and how do you spend them?

I love Christmas. The season has lost none of the magic of childhood for me. I love decorating for Christmas every year, I love the smell of our Christmas tree and the process of decorating it and waking up to its tiny white lights in the early dark of December mornings. I love Christmas music, and my Christmas CD collection that I won't break out until the day after Thanksgiving. (Except Veggie Tales Christmas...it became Green Bean's favorite during the Christmas season last year, and he was too young to understand the concept of putting music away after a season is done, and kept requesting it all year long. Several time I tried to quietly put it away, but he didn't have to see it to think of it, so it has stayed out all year. At least I like it.)

But my absolute favorite thing about Christmas is that it's the time of year my four brothers and two sisters migrate back to our home state and we're all together again. It's crowded and noisy and chaotic, and it's part of why I want more than two kids myself. How would you have a big noisy Christmas with just two? Sadly, we can't all make it every year... now that my siblings have jobs instead of college breaks, it's harder and harder for all of us to be able to get together. (We WILL all be together in a few weeks for my older brother's wedding. It's in New York, and we'll all be together in the same hotel for a couple of nights. All but my older brother, of course. My older brother's wedding is not to be confused with My Hero's older brother's wedding that's happening in less than two weeks in Illinois. That's a separate event. Weddings seem to happen in groups.) My Hero's job, manager of a retail store, makes it impossible for us to ever be with his family on Christmas Day, since they're in Illinois and we live near my parents. We make a trip out a week after Christmas when the mad rush of buying has slowed down and his coworkers can survive without him.

Christmas traditions:

  • As we decorate our Christmas tree, we indulge in the tiny frozen cream puffs you buy in the frozen section. We were snacking on them as we decorated one of the first years we were married, and decided that would be a yummy family tradition to start. We never buy them except when we buy our Christmas tree (the day after Thanksgiving, or at least that weekend...I like to suck the marrow out of the Christmas season, and the tree is one of my favorite parts, but I don't at all like to begin Christmas before Thanksgiving has been celebrated)
  • We put white candles in all our windows.
  • We put the presents under the tree as we buy/wrap them. It's how my parents did it, and I always got excited seeing them begin to pile up.
    Christmas Eve my dad's side of the family has a big Christmas Eve party with my grandparents and all their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In place of gifts, we've recently begun collecting money from all of us to either help out someone in the family who needs it or to support World Vision or sponsor children in Haiti. It relieves Christmas shopping obligations for all of us.
  • Christmas morning we do stockings. My Hero and I do stockings for each other, and we both fill stockings for the boys. Christmas gets more exciting for us every year as our little guys get old enough to start enjoying it. We all wake up together and open our stockings. Then we have breakfast.
  • After breakfast has been cleared, we open gifts.
  • After a morning of enjoying our gifts, we get together with my parents and siblings and their spouses and my mom's parents and have lunch. Then my dad reads the Christmas story from Luke 2 for us all, and after that begins a big noisy chaotic opening of gifts in a huge way. It's a jumble of trying to watch people open gifts and trying to juggle your own, and last year I spent the whole time holding Peanut Butter, because he didn't like anyone else to hold him but me. For. a. year. That's a subject for another post.
  • Then things quiet down, people start to leave, and my siblings and we sit down together to play new games and try out other new gifts. Christmas supper is leftovers from Christmas lunch for people who still have room to eat more.

I love other holidays, but none of them compares to Christmas.

It's a magical day because it's family. And I love my family.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

How Do I Decide?

3. When you have to make an important decision or choice, how do you make it? Do you make lists and think about it, weigh things logically? or do you go more by gut? Something else? A combination?

When I have an important decision or choice, like if and when to have a third child, I think about it a lot. I don't make lists, but I do try to think reasonably about the pros and cons.

In this decision a lot is based on my own opinion and feelings.

I grew up in a large family and loved it.
I don't feel like my two kids are "it".
Adding another would enrich our family, give it another dimension, add another personality, give Green Bean and Peanut Butter someone else to turn to when they're tired of each other.


Sometimes two boys feels like more than I can handle already.
My life is full and rich with the two extremes of personality I've already been given for sons.
My Hero feels like we've got enough on our plate as it is, though he still thinks he'd like one more eventually.

so when?

I keep feeling like having one two years after Peanut Butter would be ideal, since waiting another year or two after that would leave him/her behind, never quite old enough to do most of the things Green Bean and Peanut Butter are doing.
But I'm not in a rush to be pregnant again (because of the one final day of pregnancy that fills me with dread) or to have more chaos and needs and work added to my day.

That's kind of how I think through important choices. Mulling over pros and cons, giving my own opinions and feelings as much weight as other more rational considerations. My Hero pointed out that with a third child we'll have to come up with funds to finish a room in the basement, since Green Bean and Peanut Butter's room won't hold one more. But that really doesn't concern me. We have the space, even though it's not finished yet, and if nothing else we could put bunk beds in the boys' room and make it make do for a while longer (though their closet would NOT hold a third child's clothing.)

Ultimately I take all this and talk with my Father in heaven about it, glad that no matter how muddled or confused my and My Hero's thoughts and feelings are, these things are in His hands, and far more important than how many are part of our family is how we live this life He's given us. How much we include the One who created life.

Honestly, I'd prefer the days of yore, when the size of one's family was left more literally up to God to decide. I like that we can't chose the gender of our children, and I wish it was also just a case of accepting what I was given as a number of children without feeling responsible for deciding. I'd like that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fur and Feathers

I love this next question:

2. What are your views on pets, do you have them and how do you treat them?

I'm often asked, especially now that we've been out of an apartment and in our own house for a year, if we have any pets or if we plan on it. My answer is that no, we have no pets, and we're really not in a hurry to get any. I have enough to do right now with two small boys in the house. Maybe when Green Bean is older and he starts asking for a dog we'll think about it.

I'm not an animal lover. I don't make friends with other people's dogs (I'll usually pat them politely, unless it's one I'll see often, then I don't want to be stuck patting them every time I see them, so I try not to start.)

That said, I have loved a few animals in my lifetime. We had animals growing up, and while many I mostly ignored or half-heartedly helped tend, a few I became very attached to. Kittens whose mother abandoned them...our uncle on the farm brought them to us when he found them, weak and starving, 5 tiny creatures. We used warm milk in a bulb syringe, and they hungrily lapped it up. I named one Snowball, but a few hours later it died. I named another one Snowball, and it didn't make it either. Three of the five lost the fight for life, but the other two gradually fattened and energized and began to grow. American (don't look at me, I didn't come up with that name) was big and playful...so very playful! And the other one (I can't remember his name) was so beautiful...creamy white with gray ears and nose and paws and tail...markings of Siamese. We kids loved those kittens and spent our days with them. We already had two cats, though, so good homes were found for them and they lived happily ever after. We had several batches of kittens born in our home in my growing up years, and I have happy memories of doing my schoolwork with a kitten curled warm and purring on my shoulder.

One summer my younger brother and sister and I walked up the road to my grandfather's barn every day to visit a new batch of kittens that lived in the hay. We were so faithful and loving in our visits that those kittens learned to come to us when we spoke their names (I named mine Snowball), even as little tiny things. This delighted us, as most barn cats were too skittish for us to get close to. We each picked one as our "own" and formed strong bonds of attachment. Then one day we went to visit them and they were gone. We searched everywhere, but they were nowhere. Later that day my dad told us my uncle had driven over them with a tractor. They'd been sleeping under one of the wheels, and he didn't see them until too late. That was a tragedy hard to fathom and hard to accept.

In college my roommate and I were visiting a friend in his hometown in Wisconsin one weekend when we visited a pet store and spontaneously decided to buy ourselves a parakeet. Pets weren't allowed in the dorms except for fish or birds, and we decided that it would be wild and crazy and fun to get a parakeet to live in our dorm room. We bought all our supplies, then picked out a pretty blue one and named him "Timido", Spanish for shy. Because he was quite shy at first. The other friend that was with us that weekend regaled us with tales from her childhood in Moscow, Russia, where she and her parents had a parakeet that lived free in their apartment and was a real character, doing lots of amusing things, like chattering in imitation of the radio, punctuating the chatter now and then with the word, "Gorbachev". We were inspired, and Timido ruled our dorm room, nibbling the pages of all or our books, chewing his way through many a paper left out on our desks, and making a far bigger mess than we realised he could. Over time, we realized "he" was a "she", so we changed her name to "Timida." She would sit on our finger and chatter all day long, and show no signs of her original timidity. She entertained us and bothered us, and we loved her. Then one weekend I came back to our dorm after a weekend away, and she wasn't fluttering around our room. I looked everywhere, and finally saw a small box on the windowsill, and a note from my roommate. Timida liked to perch on our door whenever we opened it, and as it swung shut she would flutter down so as not to get caught, only one time she didn't get out of the way in time, and that was the end for her.

Maybe the reason I'm not an animal person is because of the tragedy I associate with them.

We buried her on campus, near some bushes, with some of her favorite toys. And packed the bird cage and all her other supplies away. Could we have gotten another? Yes, but we had learned that birds are a big responsibility, a big nuisance, and a big mess. It just wasn't worth all that for any other bird besides Timida. And we weren't sure if either of us would be in a position to care for the bird after we graduated.

I believe our family will have a pet someday. Maybe several. But when we do it'll be a big deal. I want to be ready to wholeheartedly love it, not just tend it as an obligation, one more thing to do.

And right now I love that we can pack up and take a 10 day trip to Illinois to visit My Hero's family spur-of-the-moment when my brother-in-law and future sister-in-law decide to up their wedding date from "sometime around Memorial Day" to just three weeks from now, without having to find someone to walk/feed/care for any pets while we're gone.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Where Would I Go?

Julie Pippert at Using My Words offered to interview any who asked, and after reading her two interview posts and a few other fascinating interviews at other blogs I was eager to answer a few questions myself.

I should've known the questions Julie asked me would require more than one sentence answers. I'm glad, I really am; I'm always glad for a reason to go on and on about the intricacies of my life and family dynamics. But I've decided that for each question to be treated with the respect it deserves I'll just have to give each one it's own post.

1. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and who would you go with? Why?

See, it's that why on the end that means I get to explain in full detail the steps of logic plus all the emotional surges that fuel the answer to this question.

I would travel Europe with My Hero. It's been a dream of ours since before we were married.

Europe is a land of history and romantic languages and long standing, civilized cultures and rich foods and beautiful, varied landscapes. It's the continent of Switzerland, a country I've dreamed of visiting since a photo of her mountains from the pages of my fourth grade history book took my breath away. And Germany with its rugged mountains and black forests and guttural tongue. And Italy...I'd spend several months in Italy. On my coffee table I have a book of Tuscany, filled with pages of pictures...rustic countryside, fresh vegetables harvested as a community, an old man riding a bike down a dirt lane under arches of trees. The pictures speak of a slow, simple, lovely way of life. And the British Isles, where I have roots. London and Oxford and Scotland and Ireland. We'd visit Sweden, too, where my husband's roots are strongest, and from where, I'm convinced, Peanut Butter gets his golden hair and ocean blue eyes. And Paris...I imagine Paris a busy, glamorous city...fast paced and amazing.

We have visited Spain, actually; My Hero and I went there for premarital counseling from dear friends who were missionaries there. It gave me a taste of Europe, for sure, with its towns of narrow, cobblestone streets and towering cathedrals... Visiting the throne room of Ferdinand and Isabella was surreal, imagining, knowing that centuries ago kings and queens and servants and soldiers had walked that very stone floor, climbed the narrow steps to look at the land from the vantage point of the stone tower.

We started a Europe savings fund our first year of marriage when we were both working, and had hopes of making the trip before we had children. Then My Hero made a career change and we moved back to New England from Illinois, and he began selling insurance, trying to get a foot in to the financial field. He worked at it for about six months, but generate an income he did not. We lived on my paltry teacher's salary and our Europe fund. (= We look back and laugh at it now. But I mean, if we HAD managed to do it, what would we have to look forward to when the kids are grown? (Lest you think My Hero is incapable or lazy, after the six month trial we discovered I was pregnant, and he found a job that offered health insurance, and started working two jobs, one by night and one by day, to pull us through. He worked that way for over a year, and then rose to management level where he could work just one job (with twice the stress, of course), and he's proven himself so good at what he does that he's rising quickly in the ranks at his company, and is wanted elsewhere.)

I would go with My Hero, even though there are so many others I'd love to include... A trip with my parents, with his parents, with all my brothers and sisters, or with my best friend and her husband, or with our Florida friends who make everything fun and interesting, or with my sister and her husband, who is from Europe...any of those would be amazing trips. But I guess if I had my top choice, for this particular travelling episode, it would have to be just My Hero and me. We're a team, and we have more patience for letting each other indulge in what interests them than we would for others travelling with us. We could do everything we wanted to do and travel at our own pace without having to adjust to suit "the others". We could spend months in each country if we wanted, walking down quiet country roads, experiencing the feel of each place, without feeling rushed to move on or to DO something. My Hero would take us skiing in Switzerland, which I have to think would put even Colorado's slopes to shame, and I would take him into every tiny dusty bookstore we encountered.

You may have noticed my travelling plans span across many many months of time. This is a dream, an ideal, obviously, not actual plans. I've always felt that if we wanted to truly experience Europe it would take a very long time, especially travelling at the pace I'd want to set. I kind of dread actually doing it...taking two weeks and breezing through as many countries as I wanted to visit. I don't think it would be very satisfying to me after all my daydreaming about how I'd really like to do it. But who knows? Someday we may be inexplicably independently wealthy, and then...