Monday, October 5, 2015

In the Still of the Morning

Taken *not* in the still of the morning, but during a date night hike at dusk in our soon-to-be new town.
Almost all of my necklaces double as toys.  Actually, almost my entire wardrobe doubles as work Skyp-able and kid-play survivable. 
Moving to the US has involved many changes, one of which has been doing without our au pair or any form of permanent childcare (I did see her while in London this week - it was wonderful!).

That means I have learned how to work without childcare, getting up in the wee hours as needed to write and read and utilizing nap time (my hypothetical two hours when both children are sleeping) for calls and short emails.  This in addition to my spiritual regime of praying and reading.

I'm actually finding that I am more effective than I have ever been since working from home.  I don't know if it is blessings or the ability to concentrate with a fresh mind in the morning or uninterrupted morning time (I work from the deck and Lance is on call starting at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.)--or a combination of all of the above--but I am loving it.  And I'm crossing my fingers for greater work success.

I am also loving the extra time I have with the children.  Once Esther is up from nap time (but Gideon is still asleep - crazy that my nearly one-year-old needs less sleep!), I do "school" with her, teaching her songs, commands, and reading to her.  Then, when Gideon is up, I do more age-appropriate teaching for him.  The love the one-on-one time and I feel myself enjoying them so much more (quite possibly because they have less behavioral issues because they are getting the mommy time they need?).

The best part is that, by 7:00 or 7:15 I will have (usually) been able to read my scriptures, pray, gotten some solid work task in, showered, and am ready to devout myself to my family.  Thank heavens for a husband who facilitates my early morning addictions.  It makes me a very different woman and one who is much more contented with her full-time day job.

Small Wonders:

* Overheard in the bathroom: "Daddy, are you ok? Are you frustrated?"
* Overheard in the car: "Don't worry, boots, we'll get out soon!"
* Gideon feels the Spirit by going quiet and paying attention; Esther feels the Spirit and kisses- everything.  Fun to watch when during recent General Conference both of them felt it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ten Ways Living Abroad has Changed Me

This is hard.

I was not expecting to move back to the U.S. Just here for family reunions and then wait for visas with family while Lance worked out of London. But then the bottom gave way on the Chinese market and with it the offer that was taking us back. So it is back to plan A, where we start an investment fund in the U.S. and raise a family closer to loved ones and within a school system we understand.

Easier said then done. I had heard it was rough, but repatriation has been so brutal as to take my breath away. Harder then leaving, because you know you'll be back. The ocean that divides my country and Europe is deep and wide and full of bureaucrats who require visas please, thank you very much.

I have grieved before, but this grieving- of a life that won't be lived, of friends my children will never remember, of a way and philosophy of life, of a freshness and excitement-is-around the corner rush that is gone, of my beautiful quiet little London village where I could live peacefully without a car and car seats, of the many educational activities for children and babies within a stone's throw, of places in Europe I will never see, and where my part-time career was facilitated by everyone I wanted to meet traveling through at some point- has been made harder, almost larger than life because I didn't ever say goodbye properly. You can't heal a wound that refuses to surface- it just festers beneath, and avoiding it is probably more painful in the aggregate than facing it head on.

This week may change all of that- I am passing through London on my way to a conference, and perhaps the long layover will make it possible to finally say goodbye and get closure.  Then I can face my demons and make room for the joy of living in my own country in a place above all others my husband and I have picked.

Regardless of how long that takes, one thing is sure: I have returned to the U.S. of A. changed. In no particular order, here's just a few of the ways I have changed:

1. I think my exercise should be part of my life, not a separate activity.  I want to walk or ride my bike as much as possible, so we are moving to a spot where most of life's amenities are within striking distance.

2. Related to #1, I want to use a car as little as possible. For exercise value, fuel savings, environment saving, time saving, and simplicity's sake, my husband and I are going to only use one car between the two of us for as long as we can manage. This means I walk places, a lot (see above). By choice. I'm sure people find it strange that I walk a mile with both kids to go to the pharmacy, but I love it.

3. I read international news with as much interest as domestic news. Foreign Policy is a favorite. I used to read it out of a sense of obligation because I knew I should care. But now I really do.

4. I use my passport as an ID. It is now habit.

5. I know how to dial internationally. Not once did any of my family call me on a normal phone during our entire five years abroad, and I don't blame them-that was me.

6. I have no idea what to call the facilities. Toilet sounds crass, lavatory sounds like I'm an airline hostess, loo sounds like I dined with the queen, and bathroom just can't be found in my vocabulary at the right moment.

7. I am shocked by the price of health care. Private insurance plus a socialized system meant I could go to the doctor for anything without seeing the bill-with the exception of our tax bill!

8. I want to travel more, but in different ways. Traveling wets and never satiates the travel appetite. However, I want to do it differently. Europeans see one city or region for weeks or months, not in a few days. I would love to travel to one place and really get to know it by frequency or length of stay.

9. I have slowed down and learned to relish tech-off time and doing things properly and with enough time. Brits don't get together unless they have time for at least a cup of tea or a four course meal. You always have to ask for the check.

10. I have developed my own special relationship with the British. I am more sensitive to my Americaness and that of my faith. I am more aware of what unites and distinguishes us from our fellow sojourners, and celebrate both. I have a profound respect for the British way of being, and of the much-lauded special relationship between our two countries.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finding a Farmlette in New Hampshire

After several spreadsheets, regression analyses, T-squares, countless numbing hours pouring over Zillow, rankings on New Hampshire school systems, Google Earth and Bing Ordinance Surveys, and much time spent on our knees, we found a home that actually fit all of our criteria in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

We are smitten: 3.2 acres with a barn, filled with character (it's a 1760 post and beam (translation=indestructible)) but requires very little internal improvements, within walking and bicylcing distance to a charming town center where most of our needs can be met, on-site office space for both Lance and myself, and big enough for our growing family (that's not an announcement!) but small enough that we won't be drowning in cleaning and upkeep.

Inspections are this week and the Zoning Board of Approval decides whether we can have farm animals on October 6th.  If all goes well, we'll be moving in right before Thanksgiving.  Here's hoping!

It has a separate outside entrance into the office located in the barn.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

5 Ways to Save Money on Babies

We are scraping together our pennies to a buy a home, and so have been learning new ways to save on our babies.  Here's what I have learned:

1. Squooshies (pictured above) are amazing.  Once upon a time, I silently criticized mothers for using pouches for their kids.  Then, as I traveled and my son became increasingly picky, pouches became my life-saver. In England I used the Ella's Kitchen brand (in the States, only available at Walmart) - organic and available in whole meal options with protein.  Gideon would eat nothing else.  Of course, it was also the most expensive option, pricing out at about 10% of our weekly food budget.  Yikes!

Then I discovered these lovelies on Amazon and bought them with points.  Cheaper than their animal alternatives and, so far, NEVER refused by my babies!  I put in sweet potatotes, green drink, yoghurt,  our morning roasted vegetable, and any soups I make.  Viola!

2. Freecycle.  I needed a bouncer/saucer/jumper for Esther, my babe who has trouble napping and has boundless energy - I needed to wear her out!  I first bought one at Walmart for $45, then found one at a second hand children's store for $20, then finally heard back from a woman on Free cycle that I could go pick up her $90 jumperoo on her boyfriend's back porch.  Loving the love.

3.  Yard sales.  Oh, American yard sales, how I have missed you!  I never did figure out the English equivalent of boot sales, but I invariably stop whenever I see one these days.  Lance says I have a problem, but the prices beat out any thrift or consignment shop.   As our Victorian potty and enamel bowl are in storage and Gideon's time had come, I purchased this beauty at a yard sale for $3.  It flushes with a song and detects when business has been done with praise and aplumb.  Gideon's success has skyrocketed. Hurray!

4.  Get and use Amazon points.  Anything you can buy at Target you can get on Amazon, and there is better variety and better prices online. The beauty of living State-side is that we can use our American Express points on Amazon (you have to ship to the American address on file with the card), and I've gotten everything from wipes to training pants to new shoes there without spending a dime.  I'm investigating Prime and the family plan.

5. Use the Library.  Our children's books are of course in storage.  To keep our babes reading and being read to, I've maximized my free access to books at the local library.  They also have DVDs and puzzles available for check out.

What are the ways you have found to save money on babies and children?  Please share!  I'd love any and all ideas.  Considering using washable diapers - any mums/mothers out there who love them?

Small Wonders

* G is obsessed with General Conference, and prefers it to his animated scripture videos.  How do I argue with that?1
* G's favorite explitive of the week is "Oh B'Gosh!"
* E is standing!