Tuesday, September 1, 2015

8 Reasons Why We Moved to New Hampshire

A babbling brook on a quick mile loop hike in the town in which we are hoping to live, Hopkinton, NH. 
The shock and denial of moving from London is dissipating--though I will never get that town out of my blood and head--not quite--and, well, you never know what life holds.  But we've put our flag on US soil and intend to make a life for ourself here - even bought a car and, today, phones.   

So, you ask, why New Hampshire?

1. We are geographically neutral career-wise.  Sort of.  I am less so than Lance, but he's followed my career to England, back to New York, and then to Libya, so it's my turn!   And there is no family nucleus pulling us to one spot (our families live in North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Utah, and California).  As long as we live within striking distance of a U.S. airport, we are "close" to family. 

2.  We like New England.  Lance and I have both lived in Boston and loved it - the architecture, the fall colors, the focus on education and culture - and like parts of New England we have visited.   

3. New Hampshire is the most tax-friendly of the New England states and, not unrelated, the most purple state of the region as well.  It's modo is, after all, "Live Free or Die!"  

4.  It is beautiful, with a lake region, New England's version of mountains, and a tiny sliver of beach.

5. It has great schools.  New Hampshire is home to an Ivy League (Dartmouth), the best high school in the country (Phillips Exeter), and great public schools for us penny-pinchers.   

6. Real estate is reasonable here.  We also looked at Jackson Hole, but were heavily swayed by the fact that we can afford a postage stamp there and a mansion here for the same amount of money--not that we want to live in a big home, but just saying'...

7. We can have a little farmlette within walking distance of a town center. 

8. We can have all of the above and live within about an hour of a great city, Boston.

Thankfully, our research paid off.  It turns out to be all we had hoped and the people are incredibly kind and welcoming.  Most importantly, we feel like we can create an idyllic life for our children that is nurturing, safe, and challenging - but you can be the judge from these pictures.

If you were geographically neutral and could start over again fresh, where would you pick to raise your family?
Londonderry park.

A walk in the woods from today.  G was pretty amazing - he didn't need to be carried the entirety of the one mile trek, and was careful to watch his step so he didn't fall.  After about the half-way point, he insisted on going first.  Glad to see my penchant for hiking is genetic!

G's become quite the little poser - her came up with this one himself!

We took a trip to Portsmouth to make sure we didn't want to live there or its suburbs Durham or Newmarket (or Exeter).  It  is a quaint city with much of its 18th century landscaping, architecture, and shops still in tact.  It is lovely.

New Hampshirites are very patriotic - flags are everywhere!
Small Wonders

* One of G's new jobs is picking up the floor after a meal - mostly the food Esther has flung to the floor.  Gideon is a bit finicky about cleanliness and had to be coached a bit the other morning after a particularly messy breakfast.  "It's so yucky!" he said, hesitating.  Finally, after being paper towels to help with the mess, he managed to pick up almost all of the food.  Better nip his OCD in the bud!
* We are temporarily housed in a not-so-nice neighborhood (although the apartment is nice) in Manchester, NH, in the direct flight path of the nearby airport.  Gideon will wave to each and every plane as it lands, regardless of whether he can see the airplane or not (or they can see him, for that matter).
* G insisted that we go in search of fire trucks the other day.  I was lucky enough to intercept a truck on its way back from duty.  The fireman made Gideon's day by giving him a full tour, a hat, and letting him seat in the front seat!
* Esther is crawling as much as a few feet at a time.  She is very, very proud of herself.  
* E will kiss on cue, and greeted me the other day at church after I was with Gideon in nursery for a bit with three wet ones.  It melts me.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Unique Perspective on the FLDS

Taya Cook Okerlund, author of Hurricane Coltrane

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons as we are called, haven't practiced polygamy for 120 years.

But we know people who do.  Our theological cousins, the ones who wear braids and long dresses and are married to Warren Jeffs and his clan, are oftened featured in the news.  That is the FLDS, or the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (Then there are the RLDS, too, an altogether different church that *doesn't* practice polygamy, but also believes in The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith).  Confusing?  Impenetrable?

Thanks to a new book, Hurricane Coltrane, authored by dear friend and law school roommate Taya Cook Okerlund, the relationship and theological differences between the LDS and FLDS has been made plain in an enjoyable, easy-but-still-mentally-stimulating read.

Taya, a native of Hurricane (pronounced "Hurricun" for the uninitiated), drew on her own experience, extensive interviews, and investigative research to penetrate the closed, cult society of polygamist compound culture characteristic of the FLDS--a mystery even to those who live in close proximity and share some basic theology--and embedded it into a storyline that will engage any reader.

Hurricane Coltrane is a probing, light-hearted brush on a very sensitive and timely topic written in a heart-felt, captivating manner.  I would call Taya a cross between Jane Austen and Stephenie Meyer.  The character study and development were subtle yet revealing - of the author herself, of society, and of small town American and southern Utah.  At the same time, the pace of the novel was more in keeping with the age.  I didn't want to put it down, and would often read as a I helped my babe to sleep while sick or jet lagged  (thank you, Kindle for iPad).

Taya's research allowed her to compellingly speak truth to fiction.  Although targeted to a young adult audience, I thought the book ageless and timeless in its prose and depth of human understanding.  I look forward to the sequel!

On a personal and mothering note, Taya has been writing in her spare time while mothering her daughter and battling severe health challenges, which she blogs about here.   I find how she writes--both on the blog and in her novel--reflective of the depths she has reached through both challenges.


Small Wonders

* The other morning while staying in Belmont, MA, the car alarm of another co-sleeper in our friend's home went off incessantly, waking the entire home and undoubted neighbors.  We looked around in frustration for the cause or how to turn the alarm off.  After several minutes, we found that Gideon had found the car keys on the island where he was eating and gleefully was pressing the panic button over and over.  The turkey.
* We have now moved to our temporary home in New Hampshire - post pending - and thought we should teach Gideon how to say the name of our new home.  He waltzed into our new apartment and said, "Hey! New Hampshire!"  Once he had announced himself to the apartment, he leaned out the window and did the same.
* G has become quite adept at ordering french fries.  When we are at a restaurant - any restaurant (he did this to my chagrin at a nice Indian place the other day) - he will tell the server or teller "Fwench Fwies peese!" and expect them to snap to it.
* G can chew gum for hours and then hand it to us to throw away.  He never swallows it or gets it anywhere.
* Esther took her first few forward crawling strides today - grateful she waited till we were safely ensconced in a carpeted home and that Lance and I were both there to see it!  She is also standing up a bit with help and can go from lying down to sitting and back to lying down.  Recently, she has started sitting up in her sleep.  Once she is upright, she is confused and starts crying.  When she is ready to wake, I'll find her happily sitting in her sleep area, waiting for me.
* E has been pretty sick - for weeks.  She has been throwing up at random, but generally at least once in 48 hours.  Although I am desperate to get to the bottom of it, she is happy at all other times, almost instantly after throwing up.  It makes it hard for doctors to be convinced that she is ill!

One of the homes we are looking at come complete with a toy tractor and trailer - did they know we were coming?

House shopping in the woods

Baby gets a front row seat.

Wading in the Contoocook River - it's warm!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mother of Nine, Servant to All

It is truly rare to be able to know a hero personally.  I'm lucky in that one of my heroes happens to be my sister, Anjenette Updike Pond.

Often, if I am having a particularly dark day or hour or need a little extra TLC, she is the first to call or send a letter, package, or email.  She seems to know when I need extra prayers and, as such, is often a direct answer to prayer.  At distinct crossroads in my life, such as diagnosing my long-term, mysterious walking disorder (as told in my book), she has been the one to receive inspiration on my behalf.

And I'm not the only one for whom this is true.  With so much helping of others, you would think she has nothing else to do but sit around and receive and follow inspiration for others.  Turns out she has nine children.

And nine wonderful children.  Each of them is interesting and interested in many good things, intelligent, faithful, and normal.  :-)  All have at least three (that I can think of) extra-curricular activities going at most times - an instrument or two, a language, and a sport.

So how does she, one who could easily be entirely consumed with her full-time employ of raising nine wonderful human beings, have the capacity to serve all whom she knows?

I wanted to know, as having the spiritual bandwidth to serve beyond my demanding little family is a challenge of my motherhood (can you relate?).  So I interviewed her (as you do!).

Anjenette said that her constant prayer is to be inspired as to who she can help.  In fact, she said, she doesn't offer that prayer anymore - she has developed such a relationship with Heavenly Father such that He knows that is her heartfelt desire, and she knows that He knows she can be trusted to follow-through on inspiration.

Q: So how do you know if something is inspiration?

A: It doesn't matter, was her frank reply.  If all things that are good come from Christ, if something good to do for another comes to mind, do it.  If you follow inspiration (or think you are following inspiration), Heavenly Father will note it, and trust you with more.  It's a positively-reinforced cycle (and conversely, if you don't follow through, Heavenly Father will trust you with less and find another to do His work).

Q: And how do you find the time to be a mother of nine and serve so many?

A: This was interesting, because when I had one and two, my capacity was much less. It grew with each child.  And I rely on the Spirit.  Often, it will remind me of little things that are important to me. Like the other day, I was relaxing and enjoying my children when all of a sudden, the thought came to me at 12:31 that Truman had tennis right then, so I had him run out the door.  There is no way I could have remembered that with all else I had going on, but the Lord knew that was important to me because I had already paid for it!

I also write things down - physically.  I keep a notebook in the car or close to me at all times so I can write things down.  If I think to contact someone in my congregation or neighborhood, I figure out how to do it that day or immediately.

The interview went on and we ended up talking about receiving revelation and perfecting the art.

Obviously, she is particularly good at it.  What I have often observed and learned from her was that receiving revelation takes mental and spiritual work.  It's not just that she will receive inspiration, write it down, and do it.  For larger problems, she will pray extensively, talk to people she trusts, and think about the issue.  While I was visiting her for the last three weeks, I witnessed this process. She underwent an extended battle with a good friend's problem.  She knew she needed to do something, but struggled to know how.  Her natural man wrestled with the Spirit for a while before I saw a transformation and final miracle as she relayed the fruits of her labor.  A relationship was built and much-needed friendship extended by her, possibly the only one within her circle who could have done what she did.  I was moved by her struggle and final transformation.

My sister, my hero.
Small Wonders

* Although we are now in Boston/Belmont, G will ask when we are driving to go to Trubie's house, and today in church, he wanted to go sit by Trubie.  He will also want to go visit Iori when we are out walking.  I have a hard time explaining how far away his favorite cousin and friend are.
* He will often steal her toys, but G today very sweetly found toys for Esther and brought them to her.
* Ever since visiting his cousin Levi where he built his first train tracks, G will ask to build train tracks wherever we are.  When he finds them, he will spend hours and hours building and plaining with "Toby the Train."
* G slipped in the bathroom and fell on his bum.  As he is accustomed to us "kissing it better" as a method of healing (placebo affect at its best), he asked Lance to do the honors and promptly assumed downward dog to facilitate the kissing.  Wish I had gotten a picture of that!
* I took G & E for their first visit ever to the temple as we are within minutes here in Belmont.  G is familiar with the "I Love to See the Temple" song and kept saying, "I want to see the temple!  I want to go inside!" Today after church he recognized where we were (even though no temple could be seen) and said "I want to see the temple!" We did a drive-by and then he said, "Bye-bye, temple!  I love you!"
* Esther is saying more things that sound like words, like "all done," knowingly say "dada" and today we were pretty sure she said "Gideon."  Who knows if this is speech development, but I think she gets the concepts.
* Esther is *very* interested in doing whatever Gideon is doing, be it reading, building train tracks, or rough housing with daddy.  She insists on his being in her line of site.  G will do the same.
* E recognized daddy at our reunion by pulling at his nose and exploring his face.  She will rough house with dad by sitting on his tummy and bouncing up and down relentlessly, squealing with joy.

We enjoyed one more morning of fishing with the Ponds

ice cream with the twins and Logan - classic twin poses.

Enjoying the Pine Hills Country Club pool 

kiddie car ride
We loved going to Bay Beach in Green Bay - rides are 25-50 cents each!

Truman helped Gideon get on and off each ride.

Two brave boys going on the Ferris Wheel with "Aunt G."

I love to see the temple
I love to see the temple.  
I don't know if she felt the Spirit or what, but she was certainly more than her normal giggly self on the temple grounds, despite the 90 F + full humidity weather!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

5 Tips to Get Your Traveling Baby to Sleep More + Wisconsin Wilds Part II

Travel and baby sleep.  One of these things is not like the other.  

But maybe they can co-exist.  After traveling cross-Atlantic with one baby four times (mostly solo) and now two babies once, plus taking a cross-country red eye with both solo, I've learned a little bit about navigating baby sickness and jet lag and still getting decent sleep.

Here's what I've learned:

1) Prepare.  Getting more sleep while on-the-go starts before you fly.  Prepare your baby to be flexible.  I travel with my baby beds - till last week, E slept in the hammock (pictured above) and G slept in the baby tent (pictured here).  Wherever I go, my kids are sleeping in their own beds.  My sister of the nine children would sleep her babes during their long nap in the pac-n-play so they could sleep in any pac-n-play on the go.  I also regularly sleep Esther in her stroller, sling, or carseat so that she can sleep in those as needed while traveling.  As she has been sick last month (gastro pyrisis - scary!) and throwing up a lot, I had to wash the hammock while she slept in the stroller.  It was a life-saver.  Now that I own them, I have gotten Gideon used to sleeping in his carseat for nap time so we can take it on the plane.

2) Take all of the props, and don't change anything.  G is way too old to take the bottle to bed (don't worry - I do try to have him brush his teeth after he drinks it), but I ain't changing that trick till we are settled.  Both have their little muslins they sleep with.  Esther still needs dark, so I take my breathable black shawl with me everywhere and use it to either cover the car seat, the stroller, or the sling.  I also make sure my white noise app is handy. 

3) Keep to the routine as much as possible.  If I can afford it, I work flights around nap and bed time - trying to get on the plane before bedtime or nap time so they can sleep on the plane.  I also keep up the eating, bathing, bottle routine and sing to them before they go down - apologies to fellow passengers who haven't plugged in with, but this mamma gonna sing! All of the cues so they know that, despite the change in scenery, it's bed time, folks!

4) Nap instead of bedtime for timezone changes when traveling west.  When traveling west and they expect to go to bed at the normal time, I will nap them instead.  They need the sleep, but I will not fuss about helping them sleep long (by keeping it dark, etc.).

5) Change time zones immediately.  The day of and the next of cross-Atlantic travel I am more lenient about switching the schedule immediately, but I attempt to try to transition to the current timezone immediately.  Part of the reason is I am terrible at math.  If they wake in the middle of the night, I keep the lights low and use hushed tones for as long as possible so they know it is night.  They also get more attention from me than they would otherwise with night-wakings.  Jet lag stinks no matter how old they are.  If they can't sleep at night, try to get them to interact with dirt/play outside and eat at the right times - it is suppose to sync circadian rhythms faster.  Traveling west is always easier than traveling east - this time round, my kids had transitioned in two days.  Awesome.  Last summer going east G took four days to transition.

What do you do to help your baby sleep while traveling?  Anything I forgot/am not doing?

If you want more on my baby travel tips, you can read this earlier post.

In other news, check out what Wisconsin has to offer the PGA-ers (this town has gone nuts about them - it's endearing):

Its very own lighthouse, complete with a Pond twin.

A fantastic beach (several, actually).

Beautiful, child-friendly pools, compliments of wonderful neighbors

A harbor, complete with a Yatch club and Sailing club

beautiful landscaping

If you get tired of all that green, just settle into a nice game of put-put on the harbor

or go for Spiderman ice-cream at the Harbor's old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Baby not included


The annual Pond bake sale - in the pouring rain, no less!

wall of china, potty world
The Kohler Design Center, also known as "Potty World" by the locals

Naughty little boys not included

The display rooms at Kohler are full of inspiration.  Hope they don't mind a little baby drool.
Paddle boarding on Wood Lake

Paddle board yoga
Make that Paddle Board Yoga on Wood Lake.

More story time

Great parks.  This one is "River Park" in Sheboygan Falls.

With fav cousin, Truman.

Small Wonders:

* If I haven't opened the garage in our borrowed house in the morning by the time he wakes up, G will go stand at the door and hold his hand out, palm splayed into the air and exert a lot of effort to try to open it. Somehow, he thinks the force is with him.
* When I give Gideon a reason for why he should do something that he can understand, he will often say, "Oh" like he's learned a new theory of light, and then do it.  I find it much cuter than a "no" or "no want to" and pleased my two year old can reason.
* I went to a Yamaha dealership today to help a friend, and Gideon wandered the place checking out all of the motorcycles and ATVs and saying, "Cool!"  He is his father's son!

* I'm pretty sure Esther has started talking.  She's so young, but she is pretty consistently saying "hi" at appropriate times, or something that sounds like "hi" - she definitely knows she is greeting someone.  Other times, she says things that sound like "mama," said at appropriate times, or names of people.  Yesterday I was sure she said "yes" when I asked her something.  Is that even possible at nine months?
The kids in their Sunday best!  Thanks, Aunt G (Aunt Anje), for the dress! 

Not a wonder, and not small.  My morning and nightly task.  I miss Lance every time I have to clean up after the kids, a job he consistently does without complaint.