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I feel like a marathon runner hitting the wall when it comes to being quarantined at home with two kids, trying to work and homeschool. It’s a completely overwhelming situation. So many emotional ups and downs. It’s literally impossible to feel competent at anything right now, when being required to do so many things at once.

I guess other people are also hitting the wall, which is why my county is entering Stage 1 of reopening today.

To be clear, Stage 1 of reopening will probably not affect my life much. I will continue working from home, playgrounds will remain closed, churches will not be meeting, and of course, schools are still closed through the end of June. But it may mean that we’ll have friends over to visit in our backyard, or meet up for a walk. Even that would be nice.

Being quarantined doesn’t give me much to write about. The same thoughts and feelings have been circulating through my head since this began in March. Mostly I cycle between anger and grief that this is happening and then over to gratitude. I’m thankful that my family is currently healthy and in a financially stable situation. I’m thankful that Oregon has done an excellent job of slowing the spread of this virus. I’m angry and grieving this worldwide pandemic and economic crisis, and for me specifically — being stuck at home with my kids. It’s unsustainable…and no one really knows how long this will last. It’s just so taxing on everyone’s mental health. In further grim news, my workplace is anticipating a 17% budget cut. So I have that looming over my head as well.

So anyway…here are some fun things we’ve been doing!

  • Family Movie Nights: We used to have a lot of arguments about choosing movies. My daughter came up with the idea that we do a rotating system where everyone gets their own night to choose. So far this has been working well. Tonight is Paul’s turn…so we’ll see what his 5-year-old mind comes up with!
  • Baking. A very popular activity in our house. We even challenged ourselves with a lemon meringue pie a few weeks ago.
  • Listening to podcasts. I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve been enjoying Brené Brown’s new podcast, Unlocking Us. I also recently discovered some podcasts for kids! My kids have been enjoying NPR’s Wow in the World. I also found some others I want to try, including Radiolab for Kids.
  • Making Oobleck. Just corn starch and water. Marie gave me a good lecture on non-Newtonian fluids. The kids had a blast playing with Oobleck, although it did devolve into an Oobleck fight (which led to a double bath as well as me wiping down my whole kitchen).
  • Finishing Harry Potter. We finally finished Harry Potter 7! I am sad because we had so much fun reading the Harry Potter books over the last year. But, Paul didn’t listen to much, so maybe I can read them to Paul in a few years. We’ve started on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and both kids seem engaged with that story.
  • Walking and more walking. Walks in our neighborhood, walks in the forest, walks through the filbert orchard, walks in the oak savannah.

Have you been finding some ways to have fun and take care of yourself through this?

 

 

 

 

Greetings from Coronavirus Lockdown Day 29.

Today I was briefly thinking that I’d be doing better if I were quarantined alone, than if I were quarantined while responsible for managing the wellbeing, behavior, and education of my two young children.

If I were alone, I could detail clean my entire house. I could exercise whenever I wanted. I could read all day. I could write prolifically. And also telecommute for my job.

Then, realistically, I realized that by day 29 of my quarantine, I would likely not have a positive outlook regardless of being alone or with my family. 29 days is a long time, and all signs point to this being only the beginning.

Can you tell that I’ve gotten a bit discouraged this week? Hello reader, I’ve gotten a bit discouraged this week. On Wednesday I got an email from my daughter’s school district that really made it sound like school was unlikely to start again this school year. I’d already assumed that, but still, receiving that communication from the district was a bit of a blow. Then, I went to register my daughter for Girl Scout camp for July, and the website said they are holding off on registration until they find out if it’s safe to hold camp this year.

I hope you’re empathetic enough not to just write this off as the whining of a middle class white woman. I mean, in normal circumstances, yes, I am a whiny middle class white woman. But this is not normal circumstances. This is not just an inconvenience. I’m not complaining because the grocery store is out of organic fucking carrots.

This, my friends, is grief.

This is all of my lifelines severed at once. My children’s schools – gone. My workplace – gone. My church – gone. Playdates, visits with friends. All gone. I can’t even take my children to the park anymore.

Yes, true these things still exist, in a muted, virtual format. But it’s certainly not the same for any of us. Emails, texts, phone calls and even video chats are a poor substitute for in-person interactions. The Disney + streaming channel is a poor substitute for a life lived beyond the confines of our house and yard.

Yesterday, my daughter crashed on her bicycle. As I walked her back to the house, bright red blood gushed from her mouth staining her lavender fleece pullover. My husband got home shortly after, and I drove her to Urgent Care on the advice of our nurse practitioner friend. Two stitches in the upper lip. She was brave. The clinic was almost empty, and all the staff wore masks.

Afterwards, I had to fill a prescription for antibiotics. The pharmacy called to tell me that they were out of that antibiotic, and none of their pharmacies within 60 miles had it. I was able to get it filled at Fred Meyer. My husband has been doing all of our grocery shopping, so going into Fred Meyer was a bit of a shock. I wore a mask, as did a handful of others. The pharmacist spoke to me from behind a clear shower curtain. I saw two customers dressed in cheerful, clownish dinosaur suits, like they were about to provide entertainment at a child’s birthday party.

They weren’t going to a birthday party. Straight from our collective worst apocalyptic nightmare, they were using clownish dinosaur suits as personal protective equipment to prevent viral contamination.

Sure, it’s temporary, and someday this nightmare will all be over, but no one knows when.

Still, I have a glimmer of hope. We can dream of a time when this is over. We can dream of hugging our friends and family and neighbors again. We can dream of going to the park, or a concert, or dropping our kids off at school in the morning. We can dream that  maybe, just maybe, we can harness this pain into transformation.

At the window, she considers that
She is not who she was,
and she is not who she will be.
She is transforming.
She will be strong and resilient.
She will be honest with herself and those she loves.
She will have stories to tell And when she does
They will no longer shake her voice.

From here, she will see the anxiety, the worry,
paint over its bold permanence, like oil and acrylic on canvas.
From here, She HOPES, offering it to neighbors from a safe distance.
From here, she SINGS, transcending the dark somber strain
From here, She BELIEVES, we will get through this
From here, today will be good, and tomorrow will be better.
– excerpted from Social Distance, by Kwame Alexander, with contributions from NPR Morning Edition listeners.

We will be strong and resilient. We will get through this. Tomorrow will be better.

With Love,

Ursula

P.S.  “And who knows? Maybe you were called to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14.

P.P.S.  Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 6.31.19 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus Lockdown, Day 16:

During this past week, our family has stayed connected with friends and family members via technology. We’ve FaceTimed, Skyped, and Zoomed to keep our social lives going. On Thursday, Paul had a Zoom chat with his preschool class. It was pure chaos, and not much was understood, but Paul had a great time seeing friends’ faces and blowing kisses. This morning Marie has a FaceTime chat scheduled with a friend, and Spencer and I are planning a FaceTime cocktail hour with two of our friends tonight after the kids go to bed.

What’s been lost so far in this crisis — our normal routines, jobs and economic stability for many. School. In-person social connections.

I don’t want to make light of a situation that is so painful and challenging for many people. Not only are we faced with a public health crisis, we’re also now having an economic crisis, and coupled with the social isolation, we could also be facing a mental health crisis for many.

It’s been painful for me to lose my routines and the lifeline of childcare that comes through school. At the same time, I feel that I have the opportunity to learn and grow through these challenges.

What’s been gained — more time with my immediate family. No more daily battles over getting out the door in the morning and arriving at school by 7:54 am in order to avoid being marked tardy. No more time spent chauffering the kids back and forth between school and extracurriculars. A pause to rest from the frenzied busyness of modern life.

Although it’s psychologically painful, this pause to rest from my normal routine is not necessarily a bad thing for me. I still have a lot of work to do between general parenting, homeschooling, part-time telecommuting, and housekeeping. But with cutting out the commutes and extracurrics, there are more opportunities to be quiet and pause, something that is lacking in my regular life.

I’m also finding that, in spite of social distancing, I have more time for social connections. I’m connecting more with my immediate family, chatting with neighbors from across the street, and checking in with friends more than I normally do. I often have to schedule get-togethers with friends 3-4 weeks ahead of time, but now, everyone is available to chat.

It makes me think about what I’d like to change when this is all over, whenever that may come. What could I cut out from my normal life to make more time for rest and relationships?

Less work is not a realistic option for me. I already only work part-time, and that’s with 2 months off per year during school breaks. Parenting and housework also need to continue.

Reducing the amount of time I spend checking personal email and news on my devices would be a good place to start. Additionally, making some changes to my work might be warranted — not sure at the moment what that would look like.

I also want to be mindful about not overscheduling the kids with extracurrics. I typically like keeping them busy, as it keeps them away from screens, and also helps reduce the number of sibling fights. But having to get them anywhere at a specific time always creates a lot of conflict. And, I’m also finding that they like just hanging out at home. Paul seems completely happy through this whole thing, and Marie has even told me that she likes homeschooling because it means she gets to spend more time with me and she doesn’t have recess drama.

Another thing, I’d like to be intentional about is setting aside time each weekend that is deliberately unscheduled. Maybe even just half a day — deliberately not scheduling anything on Saturday morning or afternoon. And I’d like to not have Marie in sports each season. If soccer’s a must, then fine, but we won’t play basketball during winter. (Hopefully someone will hold me accountable to this!).

P.S. How has this crisis made you re-evaluate things in your life? Are there any hidden blessings for you in the slower pace right now?

Greetings from Coronavirus Lockdown, Day 12:

Oregon officially started its “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” mandate yesterday, March 23. As far as I can tell, this is a shelter-in-place mandate with an less-scary title. Our family has already been self-quarantining since schools closed, to err on the side of caution. We’re all under 40 and in good health, so I’m not concerned about our health — but I would hate for any of us to be carrying the virus and pass it on to someone else.

In order to maintain sanity, I’ve been trying to maintain a fairly consistent routine with my two kids, ages 7 and 4 (with birthdays comings soon!). Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Daily Schedule for Kids

  • Morning yoga via YouTube (Cosmic Kids for the littles, and if I get up earlier I will do other yoga videos).
  • Breakfast
  • Schoolwork
    • Language Arts & math for my 2nd grader. My preschooler works on activity books which include coloring, connect-the-dots or letter and number identification. He can also have free play time during this time if he chooses.
  • Outside Play Time. Thankfully, we have a backyard swing set and slide. Sometimes the kids ride their bikes.
  • Lunch
  • Free play quiet time (no screens).
  • Science or piano or art
  • Chores
  • Screen time (We try to do educational activities and then give them some free screen time).
  • Dinner
  • Outside, weather permitting
  • Baths & get ready for bed
  • Stories (We are reading Charlie & the Chocolate Factory with P, and Harry Potter 6 with M).
  • Goodnight! zzzz (Maintaining the same bedtime we had before).

The weather was nice over the weekend, so we went hiking one day and for a family bike ride the next. We rode along the W. Eugene wetlands and saw lots of ducks and geese, two red-winged blackbirds, a hummingbird, sandpiper cranes, and a great blue heron. There weren’t too many people around, so it was easy to maintain a 6 foot distance.

Another thing I’m trying to do is maintain some sort of housekeeping schedule. Sure, it’d be great to get a bunch of deep cleaning done. And maybe we will. But as I adjust to this situation, I’m just trying to maintain a basic level of cleanliness:

Housekeeping Schedule

  • Make beds (daily)
  • Dishes (daily)
  • Laundry & put away (daily)
  • Sanitize kitchen sink (daily-ish)
  • Sweep kitchen floor (daily)
  • Wipe down kitchen counters (daily)
  • Clean bathroom (weekly)
  • Vacuum (weekly)
  • Clean up toys in living room (daily)
  • Investigate bad smells (as needed – ha!)
  • Clean mirrors (weekly. My kids enjoy doing this. I use a non-toxic vinegar and water mix).

There are many other potential housekeeping projects we could work on. Too numerous and overwhelming to list. However, my strategy for tackling those kinds of overwhelming decluttering projects is to just pick a spot to work on for 20 minutes. But for now, I’m giving myself a pass on that.

Self-Care

How to make time for self-care while on lockdown with kids? This is a tricky one, but as this season pushes most of us to the edge (or beyond) of our ability to cope, self-care is essential. I’ve been trying to do my own yoga videos and go for runs a couple of times a week while my hubby watches the kids. I’m also enforcing a consistent bedtime for the kids, so that I have a little bit of free time before I go to bed. Usually I just use that time to write in my journal. I need to get some new books to read.

And, squeezing in time to write these blog posts is an important form of self-care for me. Writing helps me to process my feelings, and it also leaves us with a record of an unprecedented experience.

Lastly, spending time in prayer is helping me. Rather than just continuing to talk to my husband about this crisis, and speculate as to how much worse things will get, I’m trying to focus on praying through my concerns. Praying is better than worrying and complaining.

During our bike ride on Sunday, I noticed a piece of graffiti on the railroad bridge. It was just one word, “Relentless.” That word could speak a lot of things to different people, but what immediately sprang to my mind was, “Be relentless in the pursuit of hope.”

In a time that feels hopeless, be relentless in the pursuit of hope.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

We have a future beyond this pandemic. These times may feel threatening, but we will make it through to the other side.

With Love,

Ursula

P.S. If you’re also on lockdown, what are you doing to stay busy? How are you practicing self-care right now?

 

 

 

Greetings from Coronavirus lockdown, Day 7.

I have a vision in my mind of my house as an ark, carrying my family and I along through these uncertain times. In the Bible story, the rains continued for 40 days and nights, but after that it was still 150 days before they found dry land.

We don’t know how long we’ll be in the midst of this crisis, or when it’s subsided, how long the recovery will take. As scary and disorienting as this is, all we can do is focus on the present rather than letting our anxious minds spiral into worst-case scenarios.

I did a quick run to the Albertson’s pharmacy to pick up some medication that my insurance wouldn’t pay for until today. The lady in line in front of me wore a face mask and gloves. There was a sign up that said “This store is out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and thermometers.”

I’m wavering between anxiety for the future, acceptance of what is, and grief of what’s being lost. I’m currently grieving the loss of all of my routines and social structure. But even more, I’m grieving for my kids, who (I hate to admit this) will likely be out of school until September. This was my son’s last year at his beloved preschool, and all of his little buddies will be going to different schools last year.

And my daughter, a chatty extrovert, is used to being highly scheduled with school, sports, ballet, Girl Scouts, and church. For now, all of that is gone. I am so thankful that her ballet class is continuing to meet via Zoom. I almost cried yesterday when we downloaded Zoom and were able to log into ballet class. Marie was so excited to see her teacher’s face.

These are the things I’m grieving now, before the full force of the health crisis has hit our community. Our community will have plenty more to grieve as hospitals reach capacity and fatalities rise in the coming weeks.

Still, in the midst of this storm, I am finding pockets of joy. Carving out time to write is a joy. Finding that my friends and family are still readily available by phone, email and FaceTime is a joy. I’m deeply thankful that we are going through this in a time when we can stay well connected via technology. I’m hoping to schedule some phone calls or playdates via FaceTime or Caribu for my kids.

I’m thankful to have time now to focus on exercise. Sunny weather has made it easy to get outside for walks and runs lately. I’ve also been doing yoga along with YouTube in the mornings.

I’m thankful that I have a background as an elementary school teacher, so homeschooling is not entirely outside my wheelhouse. I’ve been able to stick to a schedule and keep us pretty busy at home with reading, math, art, piano and outside play time.

I’m thankful for the gift of perspective, knowing that someday this will pass, and we’ll move into the joys and challenges of a new season.

I’m thankful for sleep. I have been through other challenging seasons of life, and at times, good sleep was not readily available to me for months/years (any other moms out there?).

Thankful that we’re all in this together.

With love,

Ursula

 

P.S. Just curious, what will you do if you run out of toilet paper? What did people used to do before toilet paper was invented? Hmmm.

 

 

Dear everyone,

On February 28, I read about the first COVID-19 case in Oregon. The next morning, on a shopping trip with my kids to Fred Meyer for a birthday gift, I threw in a few random items: extra boxes of oatmeal, Clorox wipes, children’s ibuprofen, and homeopathic flu medicine.

On Sunday, March 1, I sent my husband out to the store in the early morning to stock up on groceries and find hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer was not to be found. That day we also had tickets to see the Lady Ducks basketball team play their final home game. Go Sabrina! They were scheduled to play University of Washington. We opted to stay home thinking it best not to mix with a large crowd that would include folks from Seattle and Portland.

That week, I gave my colleague a ride home after we taught our parenting class. We’d taken care to sanitize the tables, and chatted casually about the coronavirus. “I don’t think it’s going to be as bad as they say,” she said optimistically as I pulled up to the curb in front of her house. I had a sinking feeling, but I didn’t want to worry her. “I really hope you’re right,” was all I said.

Fast forward two weeks of obsessive hand washing. I can count everyone whose hand I’ve shaken during that time. One old man at church. Two parents at a birthday party. One co-worker. One at a business meeting. I knew it was a bad idea — but somehow I felt the risk of being impolite was greater than the risk of illness.

We’re taking a break from seeing my parents to avoid the risk of getting them infected. The NCAA tournaments have been canceled, the NBA has suspended its season, and schools throughout the state of Oregon are temporarily closed until April 28 (at least). I’d been reading enough news to know that school closures were an inevitability. Last Thursday, when I picked my 4-year-old up from preschool, I realized I’d left his lunchbox in the classroom. I considered taking him back in to get it. But it hadn’t exactly been a cooperative school pick-up experience (not that it ever is). The possibility of school closures loomed in my mind, but I assumed I could still pick up his lunchbox the next day.

Thursday evening, we received notification that Paul’s preschool would be closing until after spring break. Still, I figured they’d let me come by and pick up the lunchbox. No — they didn’t want anyone back in the building. The preschool director sweetly picked it up for me and dropped it off at my parents house.

I wonder about all the other personal items left behind at preschool. Do parents need the coats and water bottles? Will they be able to pick them up after April 28? In June? July?

I like to over prepare for things. I typically spend months planning for summer break, scheduling camps, swim lessons, and other activities. But I’m certainly not prepared for this. At least we got the lunchbox back. At least for now, we have food in the fridge, and money in the bank. For now, my aging laptop supports WordPress so I can write to you.

I’m trying not to worry to much about the “how longs” and the “what ifs” but of course I am. Not much to do except focus on the things I can be grateful for.

Today I’m thankful for

  • A sunny day
  • The ability to FaceTime with my parents
  • A St. Patrick’s Day visit from leprechauns last night! They left green footprints in our kitchen and bathroom, baked “gold” (cornbread) muffins, and even green pee in our toilet! Those silly little leprechauns.

Be well!

With love,
Ursula

 

 

 

When we were getting ready to go trick-or-treating on Tuesday night, my 2-year-old son was playing with one of his sister’s Disney princess figurines. He put a finger puppet monster on her head and said, “This is her Halloween costume.”

Two year olds can be quite delightful.

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Paul dressed up as a dragon (or perhaps a crocodile), Marie was Snow White, and Spencer and I were milk and cookies. We had fun visiting my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday, then trick-or-treating with my mom in her neighborhood. Our trick-or-treating experience was short lived, however, as it was a cold night and Marie was tired out from a busy day at kindergarten. After about 10 minutes of trick-or-treating, Marie said, “I have enough candy. I’m done.” We went back to my parents’ house to let each child eat a piece of candy and then we drove home. By the time we got home at 7 pm, Paul had fallen into a deep sleep in his dragon costume. He was so tired he didn’t even wake up when we took the costume off of him and put him in bed. So much for trick-or-treating with my tiny ones!

I have been thinking this week about the origins of Halloween and what it means to us culturally today. I’ve also been thinking about the various reactions to Halloween among those who profess the Christian faith. Our pastors in Portland thought that Halloween was a great opportunity to get to know their neighbors in a fun way, so they would decorate their whole living room in a different theme each year and act out a little skit for the neighborhood kids. One year it was a Peter Pan theme, and the next it was a medieval castle. One the other end of the spectrum, I know some churchgoers who won’t allow their kids to trick-or-treat or acknowledge Halloween at all.

I came across this very thoughtful article about the origins of Halloween on a ministry website. The name “Halloween,” actually comes from All Hallows Eve (meaning Holy Evening), the night before the Christian holiday All Hallows (All Saints Day). In the 9th Century, the Pope scheduled All Saints Day to be celebrated on November 1 to coincide with (and replace) the pagan holiday of Samhain. It was common for the church to place Christian holidays at the same time is pagan holidays — for example Christmas occurs around the time of the winter solstice. Over the years, traditions from Samhain and All Hallows Eve blended together to create what we now know as Halloween.

Personally I do not like horror films, haunted houses, or things that are creepy in general. Nor do I like to feed my children candy. But I do think that Halloween is an adorable opportunity for kids to dress up and create family memories, as well as a fun way to interact with neighbors.

And then I’ve been thinking about this too — Halloween reflects a need we all have to acknowledge our shadow side. If you read my solar eclipse post, you know I’ve been contemplating the human shadow a bit lately. We need to acknowledge the darkness in our world and in our own souls. In her book Rising Strong, shame and vulnerability researcher Brené Brown writes about the importance of integrating light and dark into our consciousness: “Being all light is as dangerous as being all dark, simply because denial of emotion is what feeds the dark.” She also writes, “There’s always something foreboding about overly sweet and accommodating ways. All that niceness feels inauthentic and a little like a ticking bomb.”

We don’t have very good mechanisms for processing difficult emotions in our culture. Physical and mental illness, aging, and death, are all topics we steer away from. In the fall we are surrounded by death in the natural world. It is the time of the harvest and the dying away of the light. Halloween, with its imagery of ghosts and skeletons, is one way we acknowledge the season. And it is the one time when we as a culture face our own mortality and even poke fun at it.

P.S. What did the photographer say to the ghost?
You look boo-ti-ful!

 

 

 

 

 

The ancient Egyptians believed that a solar eclipse was the work of a giant snake attacking Ra, the sun God. In Viking lore, it was the work of sky wolves, and in China, a dragon. It was a terrifying and mysterious event that the was fended off by drumming or throwing flaming arrows towards the sun.

In Eugene we experienced about 99 percent totality during Monday morning’s solar eclipse. My parents came over with pinhole viewers, and sunflowers from their garden. I provided Explore One’s SunCatcher Solar Eclipse glasses, purchased several weeks earlier from Fred Meyer at $1.99 a pair. First it looked as though a bite had been taken out of the sun. Slowly the day turned to dusk and the temperature dropped. The neighbor’s chickens started squawking and someone lit off fireworks. My husband called to share in the moment — and then quickly the moon’s umbra started passing across the sun’s other side.

Who knew that the moon’s shadow could create such a stir? Some 25,000 people flocked to prime eclipse-viewing territory in the small central Oregon town of Madras, staring in awe at the sun’s vanishing act before quickly rushing off to create a massive traffic jam.

For my part, as fairly major nerd and nature-lover, I would have liked to have seen totality. But I felt I made the right choice with my kids to keep things simple and stay at home. Maybe I’ll see it in 2024, when it passes through my mom’s home states of Indiana and Kentucky, and northwest Arkansas where I used to visit my grandparents each summer.

At any rate it was nice to have a break from the relentless political media coverage, which has exposed us to shadows of another sort. Thanks to our modern understanding of our solar system we no longer have to fear the moon’s shadow, rather we can appreciate it as a majestic and rare phenomena. The shadow of the human psyche is another matter. It is something we understand very poorly, and in this case, what we don’t know can harm us.

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[A person familiar with their own shadow side] “knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” – Carl Jung

 

All the talk of the eclipse, and the recent events in Charlottesville, have stirred up my emotions. The wonders of our universe. The horrors of human hatred. At one time I thought we lived in a post-racist society, but I see now that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All shadows and light, shadows and light. And here we are, caught somewhere in between.

Did you view the eclipse? What was your experience like?

 

Thanks to my mom, Alice Evans, for taking the photos at the top of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t been quite sure where home was for awhile. After Spencer and I got married we moved every few years to a new apartment, from Eugene to southeast Portland, to Beaverton, back to southeast Portland, and finally back to Eugene. We rented a month-to-month apartment in Portland for three years, just waiting for the next step as we continued applying to jobs that we hoped would offer more stability. Even when I was pregnant with our first child, and during the first year of her life, we continued to apply to jobs out of the area, ready to move whenever needed. We even considered an offer I received to teach 5th grade girls in Kuwait, before (wisely) rejecting the idea for logistical reasons.

I knew that we were not home, just in a sort of limbo.

As a mom, I couldn’t survive in this rootless state. I needed deep connections, support, and stability. Ultimately I decided I needed to return to the place that was foundational in my life, the city I had lived in from birth until getting married at age 22. Eugene.

I didn’t know how much I loved Eugene until we moved back. I didn’t appreciate how many places around town were integrated deeply into layers of my unconscious. Memories were everywhere. Going for a walk at the Arboretum, for example, transported me back to early childhood, when I was close friends with the daughters of the groundskeeper.

In Portland I had felt so far away from my past, having virtually no ties left to childhood other than my parents. I didn’t have siblings, and I was no longer connected to any of my childhood friends.

I didn’t realize that you could love a place, that a whole town could be your companion in the absence of friends. Eugene had been with me through so much, in a way that no human being ever had. In Eugene I had learned to walk, ride a bike, climb a tree. As a child, I spent hours in apple trees in my backyard reading books. I had climbed to the top of Spencer’s Butte countless times. I had skinned my knees on the blacktop at my grade school, and gotten covered with mud during soccer games. I had made best friends and lost them, fallen in love, graduated college, gotten married.

So it was that when we moved because I needed to escape the devastating isolation of my life as a mom in Portland – I found refuge not just in the support of my parents but in my hometown itself. I knew this town, and somehow it seemed that Eugene knew me too.

And slowly I returned to myself.

Still, it took three years before we were able to buy a house. Three more years of living in a month-to-month rental. First with one toddler, who quickly grew into a preschooler, and soon our son was added to the family. We were a family of four in an 800-square-foot apartment with a tiny concrete deck as our yard. It helped that we were near many nice parks in our southeast Eugene neighborhood. Still, I was thrilled when we began our home search last summer, and overjoyed when we signed for a house, a modest three-bedroom in a quiet southwest Eugene neighborhood, several months later.

We moved into our new house the week of my 33rd birthday. My family and I had finally found our way home.

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Spencer and I take a selfie after signing for our first house. So happy!

 

 

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Toddler to-do: Climb on top of princess car. Check.

 

I tend to view life in terms of to-do lists. Today: drop-off daughter with grandma, deposit check at bank, pick up prescription at Safeway, work on website design. Then, as time allows: laundry, dishes, straighten up living room, clean stovetop, scrub floors, straighten up and dust bookshelves.

I also have my toddler with me all day, as I do every day. So many of these things will be left undone, as they usually are. And even if I finished all of these tasks, there would soon be five more chores to take their place. The work of a mother is never-ending.

My mom’s magenta Honda Civic used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Every mother is a working mother.” I didn’t appreciate that bumper sticker at the time. I was in high school and frequently used that car to drive to social events. So I covered it up with two other bumper stickers, “Free Tibet,” and “Maybe if we ignore the environment it will just go away.”

Now I know the truth – every mother is a working mother, and it’s just as important of a message as the other bumper stickers. “Free Tibet” stayed on the Honda for years after the car was officially passed on to me, and received a few mild reactions. Waiting in line at the Canadian border crossing, someone yelled out “Didn’t you know Tibet is free now!” (It’s not.) Or, when I worked at a private Christian high school a co-worker commented on how the “Free Tibet” car was mysteriously in the parking lot again, as if it couldn’t belong to someone who worked there. (It did.)

Today I found an old notebook with to-do lists and notes from different times in my life. The first page has my honeymoon flight itinerary, a phone number for a travel agent and notes about our rehearsal dinner. Later I find job references, a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, sermon notes, and a workout schedule that was never followed. I find notes about many jobs I applied to unsuccessfully, as well as notes Spencer and I made before his interview with the first professional job he landed. A to-do list from a mystery Tuesday: underwear, mattress pad, painting hooks, money back? C & B, B & B, golf practice, Mollalla job application, call Bob, Bible study, wedding photos, laundry.

Apparently this notebook was lost in boxes or spare bedrooms but resurfaced recently as it has notes from 2006 and then 2015. I find To-Do Before Baby: organize bedroom, set-up chair, return used items to Toys R Us, set up swing, bolt Marie’s dresser to the wall, childproof sharp corners, childproof sliding door?, maternity photos?, doula?, baby shower?, register w/ hospital, tour maternity ward, spare key for my parents, taxes, teaching class, Marie b-day gift.

It makes me happy to think of life in terms of to-do lists. To be able to see the tasks that need to be done, and slowly work my way through them. I feel I’m making progress; I have a vision for how I want things to be and I’m taking the steps to get there. Some people call this “adulting.” Sometimes all the dishes and laundry and diaper changes, the bills and vacuuming, feel monotonous and relentless. But I’ve come to see that God is with me just as much in these every day, ordinary moments as He was with me in Africa or in the births of my children.

The extraordinary is present in the ordinary.

 

P.S. Do you have a favorite bumper sticker?