Friday, April 26, 2013

Girl Culture

I love being a girl.  I even love having a bunch of little girls (that surprised me).  But sometimes I'm not so happy about different girl cultures.  Jeremy's gone for the last half of the week for a conference in Boston, so it's me and the gals.  Katie's been going to pre-school at the elementary here for the last couple of months and there was a spaghetti dinner tonight.  No planning, no dishes, I just show up and have dinner for those three?  Done deal.  

Part of my strategy to get these kids to sleep at bedtime is to wear them out however I can before bedtime.  So we played at the school playground for about an hour before the dinner started.  When we first arrived, I noticed a group of four girls, maybe 10 years old, there.  One of them said, "Hi, Katie," when we got close enough.  My first thought is - how does my daughter know these girls (since she's about six years younger)?  Then she told me she'd met them at recess.  OK, so I decide to just watch what would happen.  I was hopeful all would be fun for them, Katie never seems to notice she's not as old as anyone else.  But it became a game for these girls to get Katie to chase them, playing tag or any other game, and never let her actually get them.  I'm all for fair play, and I understand not wanting to hang out with a four year old when you're 10, but these girls several times asked her to come play with them, just to make her chase them and never catch them.  They tried to get the twins to do it as well, but Sydney and Cora gave up.  By then a couple of girls Katie's age got to the playground and I left her to play with them while I took the twins to the bathroom.  I came back out to hear my oldest child yelling at the two other girls that she wasn't going to play with them because they were "being mean."  

Anyone else with more than one child may understand why I was slow to respond to that, wondering if it was really my child being the mean one (like what happens at home at times).  But as the twins started playing also, I saw what was going on.  The two new girls were not going to let anyone near the top of the slide because it was their "castle."  So then Katie starts to yell at them again and tells these two new girls, "You're not being nice to my sisters!  You're being mean to my sisters, Sydney and Cora, and you need to be nice!"  What's running through my head?  Part of me wants to laugh, part of me is appalled as she is screaming how mean they are and their mothers are right next to where I'm standing, and part of me is so proud of her for sticking up for her sisters.  I stood back during both interactions (with the older girls and the ones Katie's age), other than to tell Katie thank you for looking out for her sisters and it was OK to find another part of the playground to play on.  

So I've just witnessed my daughters get a little taste of being picked on by two groups of girls within thirty minutes time, and I don't know that they were even aware of it.  I feel that a little exclusion and heartache are important parts of being kids. it's not like as adults we never face peer pressure and inclusion issues, so it's important to go through some of it early to start talking about how to handle it and what type of person these kids want to be.  However, it makes me wonder what school will bring for these girls.  I ended up being behind the older girls in line at the spaghetti dinner and I watched how they interacted with each other.  They were not super nice.  I think they wanted to be, but you could tell they were already competing with each other and beginning to feel insecure and seeking validation somewhere.  I'd just read an article in the Atlantic last night talking about how sexualized even Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite have become - under the idea that girls won't play with dolls that look like kids anymore (Please, like a 5 year old buys her own toys).  The article talked about how even 6 year olds were making judgements about popularity based on body image and clothes.  I am determined for my girls to know that at least their mom knows there is more to me than how flat my stomach is, how "hot" my clothes are, or how many "friends" I have on facebook (except that part that I'm still not on facebook).  

I love having the Gospel in my life because those teachings are SO SOLID and real.  I don't care if modesty, meekness (I can't say I'm awesome at that), and nurturing are SO not cool anymore.  I don't see these other values making people very happy, and too often it destroys people.  So I'm waging war on a lot of these girl cultures.  I decide what will come in our house - I can't control what goes on at school, but I can arm our girls with faith, prayer, love, laughter, and I can set the example of not freaking out if I'm not part of the "popular crowd," if my body doesn't look like I'm 17, and by not obsessing about clothes, hair, or any other non-lasting thing.  You can look nice, dress well, and have solid friends without wrapping your identity around how everyone else sees you.  I want to strive to have my identity be wrapped around my faith and how I treat people.  I always need to start with how I treat those girls when I'm tired and running out of patience, but I'm not going to give up working on this - their future, their perception of themselves, and their hearts are at stake here.     

And as much as Katie may be really intense to deal with at times at home, I was SO PROUD to call her my daughter when I saw her sticking up for her sisters.  She has a heart of gold.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Several Months in Random Pictures

Someday I will have awesome pictures in chronological order, but since this is mostly for the family records, here's a quick rundown of the last 5 months.  

Two weeks ago I decided I'd drive down to Virginia with the girls to visit my sister and her kids since who knows when we'll head back east again.  
This is Melissa enjoying the high eighty degree weather with two of her three at a small farm.  

 Katie's head is a little hidden, but this is the group checking out some baby pigs.  We had a great trip, although we almost got killed by a ladder on the freeway north of Philadelphia.  Either way, we made it home and I have a better idea of how to handle kids in the car for 10 hours.  (Like stopping every two so everyone has a potty break.)
 Since Katie taught herself how to ride a two-wheel back last fall and crashed head first a couple of times we thought it would be smart to get her a helmet.  She calls it her crash helmet and LOVES to wear it.  Between the glasses and the helmet, I'm counting us VERY lucky that she keeps them on herself and we don't have to staple them to her.  
 These pictures are in reverse order, but this is after I stuck them in front of the computer to watch Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer so I could cut their hair.  I don't have a great picture of how long their hair was before, but I was proud of how well their hair turned out.  That was probably in January?  
 My all out efforts for a fabulous birthday cake for the twins (we're back at the beginning of January now).  It was a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake and chocolate cupcakes.  
 This is to remember our house flood.  I had bathed the girls, put them to bed, Jeremy was on call that night so I stayed up to read.  I thought I heard water running after a while, then went downstairs to see water pouring through one of our floors to the basement.  It had been 20 below for a week and we had a warm day.  What had happened was our pipes froze, then burst open in the guest room and there was a lake under the bed we kept in there.  After calling my dad I moved everything and started ripping the carpet out.  Jeremy got home in time to help pull the rest of it out.  We felt pretty blessed I didn't go to sleep without checking out the dripping sound, or we may have ruined a lot more than our carpet.  Nothing like home repairs to make you feel like you're full of money (or not at all).  
 Sydney loves to help me do the dishes.  
 The girls love the moving Brave and are convinced they're going to ride black horses and shoot a bow and arrow when we get to Montana.  This outfit was a Christmas present for Katie.  The little archery kit sent with it was THE coveted toy for the time.
 Syd's the one in jeans.  Can you see how long their hair was?  
 We held a family ball in honor of the grandparents coming.  These girls were so excited to be so fancy.  
 And all three riding the horse called Angus, Abigail, or Daisy (depending on the day).  I think this was in November.  
No more pictures for now.  Hopefully I'll put more up before we leave.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013


As always, it's too much time between the last post to catch up on everything, so we'll just go over the last two weeks (and a little before that). Jeremy's parents came out 2 and a half weeks ago.  Jeremy had one vacation left and we were using it to go house hunting in Montana.  His parents were kind enough to keep our children alive, fed, and clean (quite a challenge) while he and I went west.  

We were spoiled on this trip.  We stayed with a family we're becoming friends with, the weather was beautiful, and we just had time to be together!  Our intentions heading out there were to find a house, in town, with trees.  This is what we found instead:

 No trees, out of town, no house either.  We bought it.  Two and a half acres of this.  We prayed and did all the ground work we could in finding a home and felt very guided to purchase this.  Every time we drove closer to it we felt so excited and it just felt right.  We won't actually have a house to live in for close to two years, which means we need to find somewhere to rent until then, but it just feels so right, I'm not worried about it. 

We visited with the school the girls will be going to.  It's a completely different set-up called an open-concept school.  There aren't really any classrooms, just pods or areas.  The kids do have individual classes and are grouped by their grades, but there aren't walls between any of them.  I'm excited to see how it goes since Katie will be starting Kindergarten next year.  

While we were out there we saw two bald eagles, many deer, and were told people see coyotes, elk, and antelope frequently, with an occasional moose.  Talking with some of the families of Jeremy's co-workers we could see how mountains were moved for us to be there.  Previously, the thought of finding somewhere to dig my roots in permanently felt confining and stifling.  Yet after the two visits we've made there it feels so right, open, free, and I'm excited to call Montana home.  

Our girls were so excited when we told them we bought land on the high prairie.  We've been reading the Little House on the Prairie books at night, and they're excited to build a house like Pa and Ma - we just have to remind them our well will be 500 ft deep instead of 40 and the house building process with take a little longer.  

Being home since we were out there I have thought so many things over.  The first was realizing I need to make space for our kids.  That may sound strange, but let me explain.  From the time they were babies I was determined to not give them too many toys, feeling they really didn't need all of that to be happy or feel loved.  Plus, I didn't want to trip over baby toys every direction I turned.  I still feel when they're that tiny there's just not much they can do with the toys anyway.  But I came home and realized my girls are not babies anymore - they're older.  They need some things to help their creativity and imagination flourish.  I am not saying toys should replace parental involvement or outdoor play, but I have rarely pulled out anything potentially disastrous (such as paint or glue) up to this point.  So I moved some furniture and set up desks for the three of them with crayons and coloring books left out.  I've decided I want to learn how to sew a little more so I can make them dolls (THAT is a huge change for me - I never liked dolls growing up and the only dolls they have are gifts from other people).  I want them to have a space when we build our home that will be for them, they will be free to paint, build, create, without their mom freaking out about not getting it on the piano or hurrying to clean up the table for dinner.  Some people may read this and be giggling at me, but as small as these changes are, they are a huge emotional shift for me.  I don't know how to describe it.  I want to put their drawings and creations not just on our fridge, but the walls of our living room.  I am also excited that where we will be living they will have room to just run.  We will be able to let them out the door and not worry about traffic (there is nothing else out there), or random people pulling into our driveway to point out how neglectful I am of our children.  

Another shift for me has been the idea of building a home.  There is a part of me that still wants to just live in a tent or a very small cabin in the woods.  The thought of something new or larger than the three bed two bath we're in now is something I have always fought.  Yet I'm seeing now - we will need the room.  We want our girls to want to be home, and if they don't have a space in our home to find some solitude or to play, chances are as they get older they will look for it elsewhere.  We want them to LOVE being home.  I don't think one needs new or nice things to create that, but I'm also keeping in mind we want space for friends and family to stay with us, room to hold future youth get-togethers - I guess just this thought that it's OK to live in something bigger than 1800 square feet.  Part of me remembers the tiny one to two room houses (entire house, that's not a bedroom count), that I visited in Argentina and starts to feel sick at the thought of that.  I wish I could give everyone a home with running water, insulation, and a floor.  I wish we didn't have a culture so obsessed with THINGS.  And it's all tied together for me.  So making this commitment to build a new home is such a change.  After thinking through all of my feelings - that it IS OK for us to build a new house - and still trying to reconcile with the unfairness of the world that we'll be able to and so many can't, the thought came to me - when you have it, will you be able to give it all up?  I don't know all of what that means.  But I do think it's a gentle reminder from the Lord to always keep our hearts in the right place - on people, service, and Him - more than the trappings of this world, as nice and even helpful as they may be.  I think this will be a huge adventure for our family, and I am excited to see what comes of it.  

The other thing I've realized is I am not in my 20s anymore.  Shocking revelation since I'll be 33 this year, I know.  But what I realized is what I did to keep myself in decent shape in college won't cut it anymore.  So I'm starting to run longer and get a more consistent yoga/pilates regime in place. That may make me sounds super fit, but after having the twins I feel like my body has been so weakened it's the only way to get my body to a level where I can play with our girls for their whole lives without hurting myself.  I need a strong back, strong arms, and strong legs if we're going to do all of the climbing, hiking, horseback riding, and kayaking we're looking forward to.  Jeremy and I talk about the things you see in health care - the obesity that contributes to back, knee, hip, and shoulder pain - and it terrifies me.  I'm not planning on going on a crazy diet, taking supplements, or setting up residence at a gym, but I do want to keep myself healthy and strong.  I know I'll still get older and things won't be as quick or painless as they were before, but I want to be like one of my friend's grandpa who was hiking the Appalachian Trail in his 80's.  

Other thoughts from this week?  I want to sew and cook more, and pick up either piano or violin lessons in Montana.  Katie will be in Kindergarten and the twins can go to a twice weekly preschool.  Life will be changing drastically for us over the next year, and I'm ready for it.  I want to make good use of the time we will have so I don't look back and think, "What did I do with all of that time?"  I look back over our four years here and it has been a lot of meals, tears, occasional outings, and sleep deprivation.  I feel we've made the best of it we can, I learned how to can applesauce, make freezer jam, wheat bread, pita bread, and naan.  I have loved New England.  But I am so excited for our new life in Montana.