Tuesday, May 5, 2015

On Laying Plans and Imagining the Possibilities

I year ago, I would have never believed you if you had told me that in one year I would be planning a move across the country.  Life can be an unpredictable thing, and that is one of the many things that makes it so beautiful.  For a planner like me, embracing the adventures of life requires a good bit of relaxing about the details, because there are a lot of logistics in a cross country move.  When will we go? Where will we stay? How will we get there?  There are cars and moving companies (thank God for this!), and all the little things like preschool for Hugo and figuring out school for the girls, etc. etc. etc.  Whew!  Even with the great deal of help we are getting from Ben's new job, there are many moving parts! My hat goes off to anyone in the military, or the foreign service, or anyone else who moves around frequently with or without a family!

Up until now, I have been focusing my planning energy on trying to find replacements for all of the important parts of our life in Virginia.  How can we maximize our time with grandparents?  Can we find a parish that is vibrant and loving and living out the Gospel message?  Can we find a school is nurturing, encouraging inquisitiveness and exploration of the world?  Can we find a neighborhood that is down to earth and community focused, where the neighbors know and hang out with one another?  These are all good things!  I certainly hope that we will manage to accomplish each of them.

But yesterday, I had an epiphany.  As we are setting up our life in California, we are not just trying to duplicate our existing life.  We are journeying forward and trying to find purpose and calling anew, even if that might mean that might mean finding new activities and interests and friends. In other words, we are not limited by the stencil of our life here, as wonderful as that life has been. A big move provides a fresh start, and we have a few extra years of experience, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit under our belts informing our choices.  This might seem obvious, but it was a major shift in our thinking!  

Of course we still need to figure out some basic things: we need to have a house, for example (check that box).  Or a way to get around, or some meaningful activities, or a church community.  But even as I'm slowly working towards figuring out some of these concrete logistics, I'm shifting from a box checking mentality to one of creating space: for good things, new things, and ultimately for the Holy Spirit.

And in the  meantime, that leaves me with more energy to enjoy all of the lovely and beautiful things all around me, like those three little triplets (Clara, Dorothy, and their cousin Grace) enjoying some bathing time in the nude on a hot day.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Blessed Day

Saturday was Zosia's First Holy Communion.  It all started in the morning, when the two of us went on a special date to get her ears pierced (which those of you with daughters probably know is a major event).  Two pearl earrings later, Zosia put on her dress, I curled her hair, and my dad brought by a wreath for her to wear-- a traditional Polish custom on the day of your First Communion.  

The mass was beautiful: each child played a special role in the mass, whether bringing in the altar linens, or presenting the gifts, or reading the Gospel, or reading the prayers of the faithful.  I know that Zosia felt incredibly loved to be surrounded by both sets of her grandparents, a beloved great aunt, her Aunt Irene, cousin Grace, and her own little family.  And I know that she understands the incredible truth of the Eucharist: that Jesus came to be with us, not just once in history, but always, whenever we need him, just as he promised us.  It is a beautiful thing, and I am so thankful that it is something that I can now share with her through the mass.

We went out for lunch afterwards, on a perfectly beautiful spring day.  And then we came home and all the kids ran around the yard like crazy (after having changed out of the First Communion dress, thankyouverymuch), because that is always a perfectly appropriate activity.  But all fun aside, the thing I will carry with me from this sacred day is a deep gratitude for God's grace and love.  I can still feel it, all these thousands of years later, and I pray that my intelligent, beautiful and kind Zosia will always feel it, too.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On Parenting One Year Old Twins

Having one year old twins has definitely been the ultimate challenge of my parenting career.  There are things that I could never have planned for: Dorothy knows that Clara is the fearless one, so whenever she gets a hold of a dangerous object, she immediately runs up to Clara and hands it over.  I can understand the thinking: Clara's into that sort of thing, right?  Where our other children have had a natural circumference of about 100 feet away from us that they will travel before they want to head back to their home base, Clara and Dorothy have a circumference to one another.  As long as they're walking in the same direction, they're good to go.  Indefinitely.  Yikes!

There are those moments that feel utterly impossible.  When one baby is fussy, and I think of just the perfect distraction, and as soon as I hand it to her, her sister becomes fussy because she wants one too.  Or the moments that both babies desperately want me that very minute, but will not settle for being held at the same time as a sister.  As a parent who has derived so much purpose and satisfaction from nurturing attachment with each of my children, these moments are the hardest.  When I feel like I'm giving my entire self and it is not enough.  It feels like I'm drowning without any life preservers to be seen.

I am ever so slowly learning the things that help make this a sustainable phase for our family.  Everyone is happier outside.  The twins need to spend some time contained-- whether in a high chair, a stroller, or a carseat-- every day, if only so I can get a bathroom break.  Clara and Dorothy also seem to really crave and need one on one time with us, separate from one another.  This is the hardest one to accommodate, but possibly the most important.  We are still trying to figure out how to carve out consistent time for each of them to get undivided attention, and have found that when we can make it happen, it makes everyone happier.  Oh, and it is absolutely essential to get a break.  Can you find a way to make this happen regularly?  Whether from a loving husband or a skilled babysitter, this is necessary for survival during what I have learned is a high needs phase of twin parenting.  

Every now and then I feel a surge of creative energy that takes the form of cooking an exciting meal, or organizing a part of the house, or embarking upon a game or project with the older kids.  These are the activities that I love, which give me deep satisfaction and joy, and yet they have often been set aside out of necessity during this busy season of parenting.  When I utterly lose myself to one of these activities, when I'm cooking up a storm, or organizing the girls' closet, or making plans for the coming year's schooling, or reflecting upon my experiences here in this space, those are the moments that I know I have moved beyond the most intense phase.  I am breathing calmly, I am immersed in something I love, surrounded by my children, including a very adorable set of one year old twins. It is a good feeling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lily's Six

Our darling Lillian turned 6 yesterday.  As many of you know, she is an aspiring chef, and takes every possible opportunity to get to work in the kitchen.  When she asked for a cooking themed birthday, we knew it was the perfect thing!  She invited the girls from her class over to decorate pizzas and cupcakes.  As with all good gatherings of six year old girls, it devolved into playing dressup and running around outside.  It was just the perfect day, and right before we tucked her into bed, we took turns telling her things that make her special. She is brave.  She is generous.  She is thankful.  She is really fun to be around.  Having her in our family feels like the biggest gift, and I will forever remain grateful for that beautiful spring day that she joined our family.

Happy Birthday, darling!  We just adore you.

Monday, April 20, 2015

In Which I Surprise You

::The table, before and after it is filled with food and people.
::The babies have become entirely proficient at using the slide in the backyard.  They climb up the ladder, slide down (or get pushed down by a twin if they are hesitating too long), and repeat.  
::Zosia made this flag at school, and I think I'll leave it up until the fourth of July.

We're moving to California.  The Bay area, to be exact.  This summer, after the kids get out of school, and after we watch the neighborhood fireworks on the fourth of July, we are heading to the west coast. The kids lobbied really hard to fly on the fourth of July, so as to enjoy all of the fireworks displays across the country (sort of brilliant, don't you think?).  Then, a long debate followed as to whether this would be safe or not.  I'm not sure the children reached a satisfactory conclusion, so after the fourth of July it is.

We have signed a lease on a house that we have never seen.  We are renting out our house.  Have I surprised you yet?  Whew, I think I am sort of surprising myself, to tell you the truth,  but what's even more surprising than the fact that we are uprooting our little family and making a huge move across the country is the fact that I'm entirely at peace with all of it.  Excited, even.  

I'm not the adventurous type.  When I was a kid, immediately upon arriving at sleep away camp, I would start an intensive letter writing campaign to return back home.  Once, I convinced my dad that the food at our camp was so lackluster that he actually contacted a local grocer, who delivered a truck full of groceries to the camp (true story).  The camp director threw a party for the whole camp with those groceries, but I didn't get to go home, much to my dismay.

This place, here in Virginia, is home.  We love our neighborhood, our house, our church, the girls' school, our friends, our family.  We both grew up here and our parents live here.  We are very attached to this place.  But Ben's little startup has been given an incredible opportunity, and somewhere in the middle of our multi week marathon of discussing whether we could contemplate a move and what it would look like, along with a lot of soul searching and discussions about our overarching goals for our lives (and throw a trip to the west coast in there for good measure), we realized that this makes perfect sense for our family.  We woke up one morning and felt the certainty of God's guiding hand.  Life has reached out and offered us an incredible, beautiful, thrilling adventure.  It is somewhat neatly packaged, and involves some risk, as all adventures do, but also a great deal of security.  We will be exploring an entirely new part of the country for a couple of years, living in a place where it appears to be beautiful year round (yes, please!), and creating a new home.

There are still a million details to figure out.  We are working on those, and also working on being happy to live in a place where not all of the details are figured out.  

So there!  Did I surprise you?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Light into Darkness

Happy Easter!  Surrounded by joy, and new buds, and friendship, and family, and delicious food, and a bona fide "children's table," and babies, and grandparents (and of course the mandatory Easter egg hunt, complete with eating jelly beans and dirt, depending on which family member you are, ahem, Dorothy, ahem), it felt like the ultimate celebration.  We have a rich faith, and an incredible God who gives light to our darkness.  Jesus is risen!