Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flying Solo

We are well into week two of twelve weeks of flying solo on the weekdays, as Marcos rocks his internship down in Charlotte.  Week one, day one, had a few horrific moments, specifically at dinner time, so I rewound the tape, watched the ugly moments and made some changes.  Every solo mama evening since week one, day two, we have eaten over at someone else's house.  We always come bearing some combination of fresh fruit salad, french bread, green salad and brownies, because I can manage making one or two dishes, just not an entire meal.  This experience has made me thankful for so many good, kind friends who open their doors to us.  Combining dinner forces, and letting the children play together has been balm for the soul after a long day of taking care of the littles on my own.

Along with parenting solo, a few more things have been thrown into the mix to ensure an extra fun summer.  You see how baby boy is looking all comfortable laying down in these photos?  Well, he's just posing for the camera.  Baby boy in usual mode is crawling all over, trying to climb up on things, scale walls, and chew on our nightlights.  Gigi's fun twist is that she just stopped napping, and my fun twist is that I was just called as the President of the Primary children's organization at church.  It's just how we roll this summer.

But with all of this potential madness, things are (miraculously) relatively happy.  Patience isn't my strongest trait, so I think we were all a little worried about what might happen when all of the "Good Cops" left the premises (with Marcos gone, and our moms also off on adventures this summer...), but the absence of Good Cops has helped me to reconsider my Bad Cop role.  I like to think of myself as a loving mother, but I have an impatient streak that will turn small offenses into big deals, and I can become Bad Cop in a second flat.  So it's taken a lot of inner dialoguing with myself, but I've been able to coach myself out of a lot of scenarios that would previously have left me as The Hulk, big and green, with damage control to do afterwards.  I don't mind being firm when it comes to the important things, but I think the wisdom is in deciding what is important.  Being all the parent these two beautiful children have during the week has inspired me with more calm and clarity than I have ever had in this area.  Without being tried and stretched, I don't think I would have had the know-how to start making these much-needed changes.

And so, we aim to take this summer by the horns.  My daytime strategy for success is to simply tire us all out with good activities.  I'm already sunburned from our outdoor play, my legs are crazy itchy from bug bites, and yesterday we went to three different parks throughout the day, so I think things are coming along.  If you're local and you want to play or have dinner together, let's chat.  You know I won't say no.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Internship

I'm feeling sentimental tonight.  It is my first night alone, of many this summer.  Marcos has an internship in Charlotte working for a company called Premier, and since the commute is over two hours from here, Chapel Hill is going to be his weekend home, and he'll stay in Charlotte at our friends Aline and Dwight's home during the week.  I have friends who function single-handedly with even more kiddos to balance, so I am trying not to complain, but this will definitely be an experience.  I miss Marcos something fierce already, and it's hour number two.

This internship is something of a miracle, really.  Marcos had applied and interviewed for internships with recruiters from big-wig companies all last fall, but one by one we received the news that he was not one of their final picks.  Considering that Marcos has 8+ years of work experience on the other students who were also applying, and well gosh, he's Marcos the amazing, we were starting to wonder if something was just wrong.  Finally a company had the courtesy to tell him that he was not a good fit for their internship because he was too over-qualified, and that he would get on a better track in their company if he just waited until he had graduated, and then applied for a higher level job.  Then another company said the same thing.  Oh.  Well, then.

Then Dwight asked Marcos one day if he wanted to be an intern at the company he worked for in Charlotte.  Marcos applied and interviewed, and again he was not a good fit for their current internship program, but this place knew gold when they saw it.  They created an internship just for Marcos, and had him apply.  It is the only technical internship they have this summer, out of 31 different positions filled by undergrads from around the state.  Marcos will be programming, and working with the big boys.  Or at least, that's how I understand it.

And so that is where you find me - somewhere in between grateful for this opportunity, and frightened that I may go out of my mind this summer without my usual team player.  When I say that it is a 12 week gig it sounds doable, but someone today translated it into the words "three months" and it sounded forever long.  One entire quarter of a year.

Here we go!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I think that one of my favorite things about living in Chapel Hill is that the rural world is only ten minutes away.  Here is Jean's Berry Patch yesterday.  Perfect weather for picking strawberries.  

It was perfect weather for eating strawberries too.  After a fun lesson for family night, Gigi and her friends ate fresh strawberries with brownies and ice cream out on the deck.  Sometimes life is kind of dreamy out in these here parts.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Very Aussie Easter

This post is part of the endless-adventures-of-March series and it has been ripening for a long time.  Sometimes I have so many photos of a small window of my life that I become frozen and have a hard time tackling the project.  But it's time for the story to go public.

So here you have it.  It was the last weekend in March, and we celebrated Easter with our Aussie friends who were stopping by on their epic tour of the United States.  Let's be frank - our little town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina was just not going to compete with their prior three destinations of LA, New York City, and Washington DC so we did what we could with what we had to work with - some good Easter family time in a little town with really nothing very remarkable about it at all.

The week before Easter, I channeled my love of all things Waldorf and sprouted and planted Easter wheat grass.

...and on Friday night they arrived.  But before we get lost in Easter Egg Hunts, I should back up and give you a little intro.  Our visitors were Pete, Mel and their 2-year old boy William, and Mel's brother Sim.  Pete was Marcos' companion in Tokyo where they served as volunteer missionaries for our church, and Mel and I were friends from the MTC, where we chatted during gym hour a few times a week (they later met in Australia and married, after we had known them separately).  Although we had hit it off really well when we met, and have kept up off and on over the past ten years, the week before they arrived I had a moment of panic: what if it's awkward?  What if we all dislike each other?  What if we have all changed in the past ten years and have nothing in common?

But there was no need to have worried for a second.  It was such a lovely weekend.  We wish they were our neighbors, or maybe even family members.  We miss them.

Here are Pete, William and Mel.  On Friday night they drove in with Sim from DC, and after dinner we enjoyed catching up on ten years of not seeing each other.  On Saturday morning they joined us for an Easter Egg Hunt and potluck breakfast at the church.  At breakfast I introduced Mel to my actress friend Rebekah, and she immediately pulled out the most unreal Australian accent and carried the entire conversation in Aussie English.  It still makes me laugh just thinking about it.  I remember the time I went to England when I was twelve years old, and tried to keep up a British accent for the two weeks I was there.  (It was not a very popular idea).  But Rebekah was truly amazing.  Truly.

After the kiddos had hunted a good little bundle of eggs, I made the mistake of telling Gigi that there were treats inside of them.  Her entire world stopped, and she immediately sat down to enjoy her spoils.

Despite all of the running around we managed to catch a few family photos, a photo with Mel, and of lovey boy William.

Since we were practically on UNC campus, we took our friends for a tour.  We started in the UNC Botanical Gardens...

...found spring springing in McCorkle Place...

...and drank good luck water at the Old Well.  This well used to be the water source for all of Chapel Hill, and its outline is now the logo for all things University of North Carolina.  There you have it: the most important, exciting landmark in Chapel Hill.  

That night, we took a turn hosting dinner for our Raleigh friends dinner group, and after we stuffed ourselves on Kim's world famous spaghetti, Mel lead us in the Tim Tam Slam.  She, Pete and Sim had brought an entire suitcase full of Australian chocolate to share with friends over their one-month stay in the states.  They put out an assortment of fun size chocolate bars on the table, and it was like Heaven in a chocolate sampler.  And then it was time for the Tim Tam Slam.

"Here's how it goes.  First you take a small bites off the cookie in opposite corners.

Then dunk the cookie into the hot cocoa...

...and drink the hot cocoa through the cookie like a straw until it gets soft. 

Then stuff the entire thing in your mouth!"  

Don't you love this photo of our little friend Kinsey doing the Tim Tam Slam for the first time, with Jason giving instructions and Kim holding her hair back?  I like to think that they must have a photo like this in every scapbook in Australia, of children and their first Tim Tam, like a rite of passage into true Australian childhood.  Good on ya, Mate.

What a happy evening we spent together.  So many enjoyable people.

The next morning was Easter Sunday and along with our Aussie friends, we invited our friends Angie and Ryan and their son Liam over for simple Easter brunch and an Easter Egg Hunt.  We decided to reuse the plastic Easter Eggs from the day before, but we no longer cared about stuffing them, so some were hidden with chocolates and some were not.  Gigi was clever this time and shook the eggs to see if they rattled, before putting them into her basket.  The empty ones went back into the grass, where the younger boys happily found them.  She is definitely her mother's girl.  No chocolate?  No bother.

Sweet Liam was most excited about our neighbor's toy car.  Below, William shows Uncle Sim his loot.

That Sunday was Easter Sunday.  Although we were very busy hosting and eating, and spending time with friends, during our quiet moments I had many opportunities to talk with Gigi about the meaning of Easter.  It is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of the hope of living as families beyond these few years that we share together.  As a family that has recently lost loved ones, this part of our faith has become especially meaningful to us.  Easter informs how we approach death and it can very much inform how we approach life.

Monday morning was beautiful.  It was our last full day with Pete, Mel, Sim and William, and so we started out playing at the park...

...and made our way to La Vaquita - our favorite Durham taqueria - for lunch.  Our friends pointed out that in Australia they really do not get amazing Mexican food, so we drove the stretch to Durham because this place is really just that good.  After lunch we visited the Tienda next door and picked from the most amazing assortment of Mexican popsicles - every flavor you can think of, including rose and tamarind.  Here's Sim.

And Pete, and Mel and Will trying the Mexican soda.

On Sunday night my mom had returned from her travels to Nebraska with my Uncle John, and they joined us for the park and lunch that day as well.  

That final night of their visit I went out for a late dinner with Mel, Pete and Sim.  The kiddos were asleep while Marcos worked at home, and I loved having adult time out to relax and talk on their last evening in North Carolina.  These friends are the perfect mix of fun and funny, so easy to be around, insightful and thoughtful, and generous.  We are so glad that they scheduled us into their epic American journey.  Come back soon!