Back to the Hunt

So I’ve checked my real estate app every 10 minutes for the past six hours, and it’s official. The house I’ve been dying to look inside for three weeks has not been put back on the market.

I was really hoping that whoever put in an offer would suddenly have a creepy little voice in their head say, “Take it baaaack… take it baaaack!” and that the house would magically reappear online so the mister and I can keep our viewing appointment with it tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. Somebody out there had the nerve to fall in love with the house that I have already claimed as my own inside my head where there are no legal documents and nothing stands up in court the DAY BEFORE I was supposed to go see it.

*sigh*

We’re going to live in a tent.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Mister and I are house hunting.

“house hunting”

(1) a repetitive action in which you pine for beautifully photographed homes on the internet and then drive by them to find out those photographs were apparently taken 12 years ago.

(2) a state of constant remorse that you’ve ever spent any money in your entire life when you finally find the perfect house, but you would have to actually rob the bank to be offered that much money.

Thankfully we mostly like our apartment right now, and we’re in a good place to stay as long as it takes to find something else. So there is that.

But paint samples. And coordinated furniture. And hardwood floors. And a yard. For the dog. Outside….

My mantra these days is “the Lord will provide.” And I know that He will. His plans for us are so much better than what we could choose for ourselves, and apparently this house I loved (and the one before that, and the one before that) weren’t right for us and our future family and something better will come along.

But still. How can I pick out paint colors when I don’t know what the rooms will look like???

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I’m baaaaaaacckkk!

So WOW this has been a crazy summer! I have been in my own house three weekends since the end of April, and two of those weekends were spring commencement and vacation Bible school, so really only the third one counted.

I didn’t make the trip home this many times in an entire year of college, if that gives you some perspective.

Between the MIL being sick (she’s been through a lot but is progressing well!) and all the weddings (Oy. All the weddings…) it’s been one rollercoaster of a summer term. There is only one more wedding to go – and it’s in the family!

My baby brother is getting married this Friday, and I am blessed to be gaining a sweet, wonderful sister-in-law. (Beware, sister-in-law, you will now be fair game for blog material.)

But after that, no more! If you’re not already on my wedding calendar for the year 2016, I’m sorry, but we won’t be attending. No hard feelings; I just can’t take it anymore.

[It just occurred to me… sister-in-law came into my life after I abandoned the blog for the summer… so poor thing doesn’t even know what she’s getting into. Oh well. So sad for her. No free passes.]

Also – if one more person comes up to me and says, “But your students are on summer break, right? You can’t be that busy,” one more time, I’m telling you, I’m gonna snap. All that material new freshmen get when they come to campus the first time, where do you think all of that comes from? The alumni magazine you get in the mail in September is not written by forest fairies, and who, exactly, do you think gets the course catalog updated and put in the bookstore?

Umm… yeah… that would be us.

 

How my fur-baby is teaching me to be a parent.

I’ve never gotten a Mother’s Day card. I’ve never had labor pains or contractions. I’ve never sat outside my baby’s door while he cried and prayed for him to soothe himself to sleep.

But I have comforted a scared baby in the middle of the night while the thunder rolls. I have rolled groggily out of bed in the wee hours to take care of bathroom needs. I have inspected poop and discussed bathroom habits at length. I have had a tiny head (or a heavy head, in recent weeks) fall asleep on my chest; I have also woken up with small feet in my ribs. I have taken my baby to sitters’ houses and to the doctor’s office and driven away while she cried and didn’t understand why I was leaving.

She didn’t come from my own body and I didn’t carry her for nine months, but she is no less my baby than someone else’s two-legged human child. And she has and is teaching me many things about how to be a good parent to those human children if and when they hopefully come along.

She has phases just like human children – she throws tantrums, she listens well sometimes and not at others, she is smart one day and sort of dumb the next. I have phases too; phases where I love her so much one moment and want to lock her in a box the next. I feel like that’s probably normal.

The phase we are in now is wanting to sleep on the bed at night, and I am learning a lot from the successes and failures of this phase.

She is allowed on the bed during the day, but has learned that she must (A) be invited, and (B) stay on the blue part of the comforter. These two things have been successful, although I don’t know how they stuck so well, but we at least have that.

In St. Kitts, she slept in the floor but would spend the last hour (between potty time and real waking up time) sleeping on the foot of the bed. When we came back to America, we decided there would be no dogs sleeping on the bed at all. This worked for a while and we didn’t have any problems. Then came the winter, when it was cold and I wanted to avoid taking her out to potty as long as possible. I found Meera would sleep longer and more soundly if we let her sleep at the foot of the bed; so we did. This also served the double purpose of keeping our feet extra toasty. When the summer started, she made us too hot and had to resume sleeping in the floor.

Well, she didn’t like that so much.

At first, she would give us the horrible pleading puppy eyes at bedtime and we wouldn’t have the heart to make her move. She got her way for a while. Then, she would start out in the floor but later disregard the “must be invited” rule and sneak onto the bed in the middle of the night when we either wouldn’t notice or would be too exhausted to bother trying to correct her. She won again. Now, most recently, she starts out in the floor and tries to sneak onto the bed. I make her get down and tell her to be quiet. She settles back into the floor for about 10 minutes before taking up a post near my head and groaning softly until I acknowledge her presence.

“Hush, Meera! Lie down!”

She resumes her silent staring. A few minutes later, the groaning starts again. “NO, Meera!” Silence. Then she’ll go around to the foot of the bed and try to make another sneak attempt where she doesn’t have to climb over me and might get away with it. The Mister wakes up irritated at this point.

“Meera! Get down! Shut up!”

This cycle repeats itself throughout the night.

On the one hand, I’m always tempted to just pat the mattress and let her win. It’s faster, easier, and I can go back to sleep without further incident. That little head curled up on my legs is so comforting. But there is always the inevitable moment hours later when I try to move my legs and can’t – there’s a very large, very solid object in the way. Said object is more than half my body weight and very, very warm. Said object is also, probably, snoring. You see, she observes the “stay only on the blue part” rule very well, and at night, when the comforter is pulled up around the Mister and I, the entire bed is the blue part… and she wants it all.

Down she goes into the floor again and the routine resumes. I don’t feel like we’re getting much sleep.

On the other hand, I can stay strong, be firm and say no. It won’t kill her to sleep in the floor or in the armchair in the living room. This, while painful for me now, is ultimately for her own good. Parents have to be the bad guys sometimes. If I let her win, she will run my life. I am her mother, not her friend. Be a parent, not a peer. Stay strong!

The voices in my head repeat these and other such cliches throughout the cycle.

In the morning, she’s always by my feet. I don’t know how this happens. We’ll try again tomorrow.

So, in summary, parenting lessons learned:

  • Don’t let the babies start doing things you don’t want them to do forever, because it’s harder to change the habit than to prevent the habit.
  • When you say no, mean it. They know when you are weak. Be strong!!
  • Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s hurting her.
  • Punishments must be consistent and predictable. She has to know that when she gets on the bed or knocks over the trash or doesn’t come when she’s called she will get a predictable, unpleasant result every. single. time. Not just sometimes, because she’s willing to play the odds. (See #2.)
  • I am a total pushover.

I think everyone thinking of someday having human children should have to train a dog first.

What do you think?

Ohana

“Ohana” is a Hawaiian word introduced to most of us non-Hawaiian people through the movie Lilo and Stitch. In a dictionary it means family, in an extended sense, and includes “chosen family” as well as blood relations. However, I think Lilo explains it best when she says, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

I have a wonderful biological family and an equally wonderful in-law family, and I’ve had many sets of “chosen families” over the years, the closest being the group of young women I lived with in college. However, it wasn’t until one night a few weekends ago that the true meaning of “ohana” really sank in deep.

I was with a group of friends laying out by a pool at midnight looking for shooting stars, listening to soft music and laughing about whatever was funny at the moment. There was a long moment of silence as we all scanned the sky and it occurred to me that we are a group born of desperation. We are a cluster of people that probably would never have been friends if we’d all gone to our chosen stateside schools. We likely never would have met. We didn’t come together simply because we lived in the same dorm or happen to go to the same school; we bonded out of nervousness and fear of the great unknown that was this unfamiliar place and have formed an unlikely bond that – quite possibly – is stronger than anything else. We are ohana. We are each other’s closest companions and strongest rocks in the storms of St. Kitts life.

We consist of two Floridians, five southerners (some more so than others), a girl from Michigan and a girl from Oregon. We have pessimists, optimists and who-cares-ists. The youngest is 22 and the oldest is about to be 30. We have two married couples, one engaged couple, two single girls and one with a boyfriend back home. We are Greek, Hispanic, Native American and just plain who-knows. We come from all sorts of family and religious backgrounds and don’t always see eye-to-eye on everything, but the innate knowledge that we are all we have keeps us together regardless of our arguments.

Yet we are the same. We are all working toward the common goal of becoming veterinarians (six of us students, three of us spouses). We are all far away from home – many for the very first time – and we have all been separated from all the people, places and things we hold dear and tossed onto this rock hundreds of miles from real land. I think the RUSVM bond is probably greater than that of other vet students at stateside schools because they at least have the familiar, the knowledge that home is a car trip or a short flight away; but us… we only have each other. Sure, we all have friends and family waiting for us back home, but when something happens here and help is needed, we don’t have the luxury of a visit from Mom with hot chicken soup; we don’t always even have the ability to call home. Without each other, we would flounder; but together, we’ve learned how to swim.

We started out with our original orientation group from first semester, when nobody knew anybody or where anything is or how anything works here. We stuck together because we were required to. Now we’ve added a few stragglers from other orientation groups and picked up a former Black semester. The Mister isn’t in the same classes anymore, after having had to repeat a semester, but we’re still together every chance we get and they are always quick to offer him any advice or materials they have to help him succeed. No one is left behind or forgotten.

I write this long, sappy post to say this – I am eternally grateful for the ohana we have found here; for those we have chosen and for those who have chosen us in return. I don’t know where we would be or how we would get through this without them, and I hope they know they can count on us as well. The saddest part about repeating a semester is knowing we will not finish this journey with them, that we will have a semester on this island alone after they have moved on to greater things. But I have a feeling we will find each other again along the way, whether in clinicals, at professional conferences or at weddings and other special events. We will find each other, because we are ohana, and no one will be forgotten.

Deck the halls with food and pastries, fa la la la la la la la la

Oh my goodness. I’ve eaten more food in the last week then I think I’ve had in a month on the island. That was the ultimate goal after all, so I am definitely far from complaining, but man! I’d forgotten there were so many choices in the world!

Red meat, flaky pastries, soft potatoes, fragrant sauces, dips and creams; meals served with complimentary rolls and cinnamon butter; steamed vegetables that don’t include pumpkin squash… It’s been incredible. I actually got to a point this weekend where I would have done almost anything just to sit on the couch and have a simple bowl of Captain Crunch cereal. We are so blessed to have friends and family fighting for the time to take us out to eat. My father-in-law has actually been keeping a list over the past months of places and foods that I’ve mentioned craving (which reminds me, never mention something unless you are one thousand percent sure you have to have it).

We are so incredibly blessed and happy to be home. Our first Christmas evening is tonight, with the rest of the Mister’s family exchanging gifts tomorrow and then meeting up with my side of the family starting Christmas day around dinnertime. It’s been a fantastic break so far and we still have almost two weeks until we return to what the Mister has been calling “the island of misfit toys.”

Meera, for those who’ve been wondering, is doing fine. She’s got a big yard and a half-dozen new friends to cause havoc with, so I’m more concerned about the girls watching her than I am about her. (And about the state of our old house, which has two dogs sleeping unattended in it until we return.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Top Ten Thursday – Things to be thankful for on the day after Thanksgiving

So yesterday was the first Thanksgiving that the Mister and I have ever spent away from family, and it was definitely atypical, but a wonderful sort of atypical. I spent the morning and early afternoon babysitting Thing 1 and Thing 2, cradling Thing 2’s warm baby softness on my hip more than usual because he wasn’t feeling well. Then I came home and cooked my corn bread casserole in a frenzy, hopping up and down to make the oven cook faster (because that totally works) and sending the Mister on a classic whirlwind dash to the grocery store after the first cornbread mix I opened was, umm… shall we say, not alone?

Anyway. OISK.

It turned out wonderfully, coming out of the oven piping hot just in time to wrap it in blankets and carry it across the island (funny how, here, going literally across the country on a daily basis is normal) for our potluck-style Thanksgiving dinner with our island family. I also made spiced holiday cider, which was well-received despite the group’s initial disappointment about its lack of alcohol.

We are always thankful for each other, for friends and family back home and for the blessings that allow us to be independent. However, since this list is a day late, I’m going to assume you know about all those obvious things and instead focus on the things we are thankful for on this day AFTER Thanksgiving.

1. Meera has not thrown up in the house, even though her belly is full of the rubber duckies she sent to their dooms while we were gone yesterday.
2. Our roommates made more food for their island dinner than we did and have graciously offered to share their leftovers.
3. We have a wonderful island family to be able to share important moments with. We are forever thankful for having such a solid foundation here, even when we’re all so far from home.
4. We get the keys to our new apartment tomorrow afternoon!
5. We head back to the United States two weeks from tomorrow!
6. I don’t have to worry about the temptation to venture out on Black Friday and spend a ridiculous amount of money because stores here have never heard of such a thing.
7. The Mister fulfilled his agreement to do well on at least three of his last four exams, so we are celebrating tonight by having dinner at the Marriott and hopefully seeing Catching Fire in theaters for the second time.
8. A beautiful sunshiney day with a good amount of breeze, and the hope that I won’t be covered in a sheen of sweat by the time I’m done packing without air conditioning.
9. The fact that a half-dozen people told me my corn pudding and cider were wonderful last night and asked for my recipe. One of the highest compliments a southern woman can get, and it rarely happens, so I’m reveling in it. 🙂
10. The fact that this blog has spread wider and become more popular than I ever thought it would, thanks to referrals by viewers like you (cue PBS sponsor music). But seriously, thank you for all your support over the last two years, and I look forward to entertaining you long into the future.

[Oh, and in case you want those recipes, here they are below. :)]
Corn bread casserole : I’ve found that cooking on 350 for 45 minutes leaves the inside too gooey, so I would say either leave it in a little longer or cook on 375 instead. Just make sure you can scoop a little out and it’s fairly solid in the middle.

Spiced holiday cider : For those who were at the dinner last night, I used only about a cup of pineapple juice because I ran out, so it’ll probably be a bit more punch-y if you want to use the full amount.

And now, for the Christmas music! Happy holiday season everybody.

The Making of Heirlooms

Today I started teaching my roommate, B, how to crochet. (Crochet is a yarn craft that resembles knitting except you use one hook instead of two needles.)

She’s been asking for a while and I’ve been meaning to sit down and show her, but neither of us has ever gotten around to it until today. So now there is a little line of loosely-woven single crochet stitches draped across a table in our living room – the beginnings of B’s very first potholder. I’m so proud. 🙂

I learned to crochet from my mother, who said “yarn over from back to front, back to front” I have no idea how many times when I was younger. I had a hard time understanding why the direction of the yarn made any difference when the product would turn out the same anyway. I remember making endless granny-square circles in ambitious baby-blanket projects that turned out big enough to cover entire beds. (Which reminds me, I made my aunt a blanket when my cousin was born that I don’t think I’ve seen since… I should ask her about that.) My mother learned from her grandmother who, I assume, learned from someone else, and one day I’m sure I will (attempt to) teach my daughter. So B is good practice.

I haven’t crocheted much in past years, but I’ve picked the hobby back up since moving to the island and having very little else to do with my time. I’ve made two baby blankets for my mother-in-law to give as gifts, several potholders and trivet pads, and a rabbit. (Actually two rabbits, but the smaller one somehow looks more like a lopsided gorilla and is therefore not pictured.)

Mr. Flopsy - my first ever crochet animal

Mr. Flopsy – my first ever crochet animal

I normally stick to blankets and other flat items, so Mr. Flopsy is my first foray into the world of three-dimensional objects. (He looks strange because he’s stuffed with balls of notebook paper, since I didn’t have enough cotton pads to fill him.) Mr. Flopsy has his flaws, but the goal is to get really good at it and then sell the animals here as children’s toys (but with cotton stuffing, this time).

All of this got me to thinking – I know how to crochet, but how many family talents have I taken for granted and never learned to do myself? One of my great-grandmothers quilts, and while I think this is an interesting hobby, I never took the time to ask her to teach me. Who will make quilts when her generation is gone? My other great-grandmother and a grandmother can sew and embroider things, and while I have reaped the benefits of their skill my entire life, I’ve never taken enough time to learn well. (I can sew in a straight line and whip-stitch simple holes in socks, but that’s about it.) Who’s going to take in my children’s pants and make my granddaughters creative Halloween costumes when they are no longer able?

I suppose my excuse is that life is busy, things come up and other things get forgotten in the rush, but we really shouldn’t take talents like that for granted. Very few people today have family heirlooms that are more than 4-5 generations old. New heirlooms have to be made and passed down at some point, but if none of us young people learn to do things like sew and knit and carve, who’s going to make those heirlooms? Do we really want to be a society of people whose most precious family possessions have the words “Made in China” stamped somewhere on them?

I think not.

So Google “how to crochet for beginners.” Ask your grandfather how he carved that wooden horse on the mantle. Learn something worth passing down, because that’s how you’ll leave your mark on the world when you go.

What crafty skills do you have? Where did you learn them? Have you created anything you think might withstand the test of time?