Monday, July 10, 2017

Asher and Eowyn Turn Four

This year the girls were old enough to be super excited about family and friends coming to their birthday party.  We bought balloons and tons of food, and the girls were counting down the days in advance.  That's why it was awful when we all got the flu and the party was cancelled.

We spent two and a half weeks rotating doctor's appointments, medications, and naps, and by then the girls were four and their big day was over.  However, we still made cake and opened presents.

The flu didn't dampen the sense of humor.

(For the record, the girls  have been sick on their birthday EVERY YEAR since birth.  They usually get to party the weekend before, but by June 19th, each one is running fever.  They've had hand, foot, and mouth, strep, and ear infections.  This year was the worst since it was all of us and it was the flu, but I really don't even know why I plan for them to be healthy each year.)

Anyway, we decided when we were all well that we would reclaim both their birthday celebration and Father's Day since each one was obliterated by illness.  We didn't reschedule a big party because we were still shell shocked from all the sick, but we did spend five days seeing movies, eating lobster and ice cream, buying books, and going to the aquatic center and HOA pool to swim.  We threw in some fireworks for 4th of July, and suddenly we all felt better.

Here's the scoop on my now four-year-old babies.  Yes, we still call them the babies, but we're trying to stop.


Loves: Daniel Tiger, Magnatiles, All Books
She speaks in a high, very girly voice.
She's fearless in the water.
Asher is tenderhearted.  I've told her simply to not jump on the couch or to take her food in the kitchen, and I've found her five minutes later crying because she felt bad for getting into trouble.  However, when she digs her heels in, good luck.  She will get three inches from anyone's face and argue her point in squeaky, preschool speak.  It's a mixed bag.
She likes to be tickled.  


Loves: Daniel Tiger, Magnatiles, drawing, punching Asher when she's angry
Eowyn sounds like Peppermint Patty.  This is still an easy way to tell them apart.
She did not fully immerse herself in the pool for a month, but she's good with it now.
Frequently says "I'm frustrated" for no reason because she's heard Daniel Tiger say it.  This frustrates me.
Eowyn loves affection, and though she can be a tough kid to discipline at times, her feelings get hurt by anyone even looking at her the wrong way.  She'll punch her sister in the face, but when confronted she falls apart and begs us to hold her. 
Eowyn is still roaming around the house asking, "What happened to my party?" in reference to the birthday debacle.  We just keep saying, "Influenza B".
She likes to be tickled.

To be honest, I did not fully see the twin bond thing in these two for a while.  Sure, they have something special and always have, but they were not these crazy connected kids who were afraid to be away from each other.  They've always played independently and still do.

However, lately they have become more attached in certain ways.  They go find each other if something exciting is happening, and it's gotten to the point where if I'm handing out snacks while one twin is on the toilet, the other will go and try to drag her off so she doesn't miss anything.  They are both devastated when the other one gets in trouble, which is quite a change.  Last year at this time they would laugh at each other when disciplining was being doled out to the other one.

They fight like all good siblings, and their fights sometimes get more personal than my oldest two.  Still, we can't take them out on separate dates because they cry when asked to have fun without each other.  We're letting them call the shots on how all this works, and we're just trying to follow their leads.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Simplicity: A Mid-Year Check In

My focus word this year is simplicity, and somehow the year is halfway over.  I want to take an assessment as the second half of the year starts to see what the first half looked like and if I truly kept a focus on living simply. I will also still be blogging monthly about how we're seeking simplicity in food, fashion, home maintenance, electronic use, and the like.  I am also looking at what simple means to me as I make new goals for the last six months of the year.

Ways We've Done Simple

We Learned to Hygge

The Danish concept of hygge is all about simplicity, and I devoured books about this concept and wrote an article on it that was published here.  Whenever I feel myself veering off course when it comes to simplicity, I think hygge.  That means coffee, getting outside, unplugging from electronics, or grabbing a book to read.  It means simple food and long conversations.  Hygge helps me define my idea of simplicity in real terms, and just like it does the Danes, it makes me happier. 

We Made Positive, Scary Changes

I had to do a bit of soul searching when it came to what simplicity meant for me as it relates to change.  D and I both felt, without talking about it to each other, that we might not keep living where we are forever, and when we finally both confessed to these feelings, the realization floored me.

In the past, I've had no trouble with the idea of picking up and going somewhere else.  I love change that I initiate.  But being a parent suddenly made this idea seem impossible.  What about security and friends and all the things?  What if we ruined everyone's lives?

We're not planning on moving anytime soon, but conversations about leaving led to some realities that I had to face about control issues and about my own problems with displacement, something I've struggled with since my teen years.  It also pointed out some areas we needed to change where we're at right now.  We needed to get out of a situation, and we both knew it, but that fear of what would happen hung over our heads and damn near paralyzed me.  However, we did it, and it's great.  Maybe this is one small step and the bigger ones are coming.

I Sort of Learned to Sleep

Plagued with insomnia since birth if my parents are to be believed, I finally made the leap from an overtired, up-too-late person to someone who is getting around six to seven hours of sleep a night.  All it took was the flu leveling all six of us for two and half weeks to knock me down so hard that I had no choice but to prioritize sleep.

It's still hard for me.  However, I have streamlined my life to the point that I don't have to be up all night working, and when I get that urge to just sit up and listen to the quiet house until two am while still consuming coffee, I just say no. 

Simple Plans for the Future

One thing that is not easy but is simple is the idea that we need to challenge ourselves to grow.  I used to be great at pushing myself, but that was before I had four kids and my brain and body felt like mush by the end of the day.  Yes, I still read a lot and write daily, but I am feeling the simple urge to push out of my comfort zone and see where that leads.

When it Comes to God

I don't think we ever really stop journeying when it comes to spiritual issues, and D and I have recently made some decisions about our journey that give us peace.  We're going to keep pushing in the direction we're going, the one God is opening for us.  I'm also keeping a journal of all the places I see God amidst this crazy, ugly world.  Turns out that if you look for Him daily, He's not that hard to find.

When it Comes to Books
 I read a lot, and it's one of my favorite hobbies.  I don't discriminate against pretty much any type of writing, though I prefer certain types over others.  However, there are some classics I missed out on in high school, and I want to go back and read them. I read Anna Karenina a couple of years ago because I loved my Russian Lit class in college, and it was amazing.  Now I'm tackling War and Peace.  The problem is that book is a behemoth, and I want to savor it while still not missing out on reading other, newer books.

My goal is to read at least one classic a month, and I hope to still throw some new books in there as well.

When it Comes to Writing

My writing has been going well, but one place where I have fallen back is fiction.  I love writing fiction, but having fiction published is a beast.  Because I am successfully having non-fiction published regularly, I've stopped working on fiction as much.  This isn't how I want things to be.

I'm going to make sure my time is organized in a way that I can work on fiction every day, even it's just a little.  Whether it gets published or not isn't the point.  I have some words that need to be written, and so I have to write them.

When it Comes to Movement

Truth be told, I have never fully recovered from my pregnancy with the twins, and it's starting to show. I'm not yet 40, but my endurance is awful, and I don't feel like this is totally normal.  After carrying the girls for 37 weeks, I breastfed for another 17 months.  Just when all of that came to an end, I developed symptoms that a year later would finally be diagnosed as Meniere's disease.  Basically, every  time I thought I was getting back up, I got knocked back down.

I am going to push myself to sweat and hurt daily.  This is something I used to do without thought, but I used to overexercise due to an eating disorder, so it wasn't exactly a good thing.  I'm looking for normal/challenging, something where I will see that I am getting stronger.  Right now, I don't feel strong.
When it Comes to People

I fully embrace the part of me that can't deal with people all the time, the introvert side that needs quiet to survive.  However, I've started embracing the extrovert side as well, the part of me that loves those intimate relationships that lead to hours of conversationCatching the flu and all of us being quarantined for weeks left me aching for time with the people I usually see on a regular basis.  I want to keep feeding those relationships since I care for them so much.

Monday, July 3, 2017

June Book List

I only read five books this month, but I am also editing D's novella, and I managed to binge watch A Handmaid's Tale on Hulu.  Since all six of us were hit with the flu, I did the best I could with what time I had.


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Gay's essays on feminism were insightful and honest, with the author confessing to embracing feminism but not feeling like she is always doing it right.  Her message is relatable since even the most staunch feminists can't seem to agree on every issue and where we should stand.  I agree with Gay when she says that it's important for her to be a feminist, even a bad one, because there is still work to do for women.

Gay covers music, movies, and her own life in these essays, and though all were enjoyable, I was particularly fond of the stories that centered around her narrative and personal history.  That's why I grabbed the next book on the list and dove in.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Gay's memoir takes an even more personal turn, talking in more detail about the gang rape she experienced at the age of 12 and what it meant for the rest of her life, particularly her body.  Attempting to protect herself from the abuse she suffered at the hands of cruel boys, Gay ate to deal with her trauma, and this book talks about the toll that hunger has taken on her life.

Gay holds a mirror up to our body-obsessed culture while still admitting that she sometimes longs for a different body.  Her honesty is breathtaking, and it doesn't say great things about our world that a woman with her PhD and best-selling books to her name still has to deal with rude remarks about her appearance.

I read Hunger in one night, absorbing Gay's story, weeping for all she went through.  It's impossible to define this book except to say it should be required reading for all.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Scientist Hope Jahren writes her memoir using personal stories and information about plants.  It may sound like a strange combination, but it's perfection.  I read this one slowly, not really wanting it to end. 

The chapters alternate, telling something about plant life in one then switching to tales of Jahren's life, starting with her childhood living with a father who let her come to his lab regularly.  Jahren is honest about the struggles female scientists face, and she's also transparent about her struggles with bipolar disease.  Her writing is beautiful, almost lyrical, and I felt every emotion possible while reading her story.  Put this book in the hands of any budding scientists, avid readers, or anyone who just enjoys good writing.


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Towles' protagonist was described to me by a friend as "like Ove from A Man Called Ove, but way less grumpy".  That description is perfect, and this book was a delight.

When the Bolsheviks take over, Count Alexander Rostov is confined to a hotel for the rest of his life as a punishment for being a man of leisure.  He takes this confinement in stride, and for decades he watches Russia change from inside the elegant hotel.  While confined, he makes friends, finds purpose, and reveals details of his past.  When a young girl needs him to have a good life of her own, he rises to the challenge and uses his skills to provide her with the best life possible.

This book is on BookPage's top 50 for the year, and it belongs there. 

No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

Watts' book is described as being Great Gatsby-like, but it's been years since I've read F. Scott Fitzgerald's tale of 1920s decadence.  I enjoyed this book for what it was: a tale of families coming to terms with where their lives have led, and the tale of a man trying to change his future by using money to lure in the girl of his dreams.

Ava dreams of having a child, but her marriage to Henry is falling apart and she can't carry a pregnancy to term.  JJ comes back to lure Ava to him with the house he is building in the Carolina mountains.  Sylvia, Ava's mother, watches this unfold, dealing with her own life decisions and the infidelity of her husband, Don. 

This story explores what it means for this family to be black in the Carolinas, a previously segregated area that still carries the scars of racism.  Watts' writing is wonderful, and the relationship between Ava and Sylvia, mother and daughter, is accurately depicted as equal parts difficult and tender.