Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Park Day

Park day was this afternoon. We've made it every Wednesday since mid-September, five or six times now, I guess. The park where we gather has a small splash pad, a large playground structure, and a wood begging to be explored. The temperatures have dropped since September, from the sauna blast to a pleasant heat. The splash pad would still be welcome, but unfortunately two weeks ago it stopped working. I suppose that since technically it's fall it means the water has to be turned off, much to the chagrin of hot children.

This has been a fairly good place to meet other moms and kids, and I've enjoyed some good conversations. Topics have ranged from places we've lived, animals kept, parenting ups and downs, curriculum we like, to one today about good books. You can't go wrong with a conversation about books between two booklovers.

The kids have had some success in meeting other kids. There are a number of seven-year-old boys, so Jon's been in fine company. Clare and Ev have had a harder time connecting with kids their age, though Clare found a fellow explorer in one of Jon's new buddies, and Ev has enjoyed the boy's six-year-old sister. I like their mom, too :) . I'm praying that more friends will emerge through this group, though there are also kids they're meeting through church activities, and at some point there will probably be sports. Time, time, time.... 

For now I'll work on my patience and keep enjoying the park days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All That Land

Have I mentioned that we have a big yard? It's delightful. It needs work like everything else, but it's just fine for sending the kids into for exploration and play. And, also like the house, it has plenty of potential.

Now that the heat has dropped a bit the kids have been out more. A few weeks ago Jon and Ev started an archaeological dig in the back corner and turned up quite a rock collection. Another day the threesome put their heads together and built a castle, complete with moat. We did have to advise them to put dirt back around tree roots they exposed, but points for a creative drawbridge!

In front we have a number of shade trees, including three pecan trees that are producing nicely right now. Ev and Jon are in charge of nut collection while Clare is on leaf-raking duty. The squirrels aren't too thrilled with this arrangement.

And last night we made a fire pit right off our back patio and roasted s'mores. There isn't much light pollution around us, either, so we got a pretty good look at the stars. It was like camping again, but with the handy benefit of running water a few feet away. I realized how long it's been since we enjoyed a family campfire, too. Personally, my favorite way to enjoy a fire is to roast marshmallows and contemplate the glowing embers and sing some songs. I think the last time we went camping I was able to do that. But that was about three years ago--four summers--and Jon is seven now and in full boyhood, so a campfire's purpose, apparently, is for poking and seeing what all will burn in it. Ah well. I guess I'll have to shift my definition for a few years.

Part of the yard is fenced off and we already have some alluring options for that. A dog is high on the kids' list. Kraig has been talking a lot about keeping chickens. We shall see.... Next year, depending on life and craziness, we will plant a garden. And I'm especially looking forward to spring because there are two well-grown dogwoods out back. Now there is potential.

The Bane of Popcorn Ceilings

I wrote this out by hand yesterday but didn't have time to post it:

Kraig has Fall Break today and tomorrow so we're on a holiday of sorts. Of course, for us right now that mostly means more time for house projects, but the kids had fun riding their bikes and we had a bonfire tonight. I've been able to concentrate more on one of the rooms we're trying to get painted and Kraig fixed two leaky faucets amid a multitude of other projects.

I know I've mentioned that I'm thankful for the projects--I do love the satisfaction of a job well done, but today I've felt rather curmudgeonly. I'm not totally sure why. Maybe it's because that room we're trying to paint is the first of a few rooms and we're now way off our intended schedule because the prep process has taken forever. I finally thought it was good enough to move forward and paint the ceiling, only to discover (once I'd put a layer of paint over it) that the spots I'd patched to hide old tape lines now show as a couple of snaky lumps. And I'm so fed up with it.

All of the ceilings in this home have popcorn finishes. Our home in Michigan had them and they were the first thing to go, and as we're picking our way through he room improvements here we're eliminating them. Thankfully they haven't been painted over so the popcorn comes off easily. We hate popcorn ceilings. The dirt and dust clings to the crevices and they're impossible to really clean. But they sure do cover a multitude of flaws. I'm sure when they're first sprayed on they're a refreshing change--white stipples hiding all of those tape lines or divots that can mar a flat ceiling. But they're just a cover, not a true fix, and like any temporary cover they don't resolve the root issue. I guess that's one reason why I'm so disappointed with our recovered ceiling. I wanted so much for it to be nice and clean, a fresh slate from the bottom up, and it's still flawed.

And I'm wondering about my angst. I feel like I've had some cover scraped off, a nice popcorn ceiling of vacation time, and I'm still all messy underneath. I've been sniping at the kids, and they've been sniping at each other. Even during some great one-on-one time with Clare today I had a difficult time tuning in and cheerfully responding to her chatter. I'm praying that tomorrow will be better or that God will show me clearly what's going on. In other words, I need him to work on getting my popcorn ceiling off and cleaning up the flaws underneath.

Or something like that....

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Church Home...I think....

We've been attending one of the local churches here in Longview since our first Sunday in town. When we came we fully intended to church shop a bit. Unlike Guadalajara, which is not flush in English-speaking churches (for some reason!), Longview is part of the Bible belt, so there are churches galore. Thankfully there are a lot of solid ones, but we knew that might make finding the right one more difficult. In Guadalajara we went to the first one recommended and we were thrilled with it. It was definitely a gift from God. The teaching we received and the folks we met were incredible.

So on our first Sunday in Longview we decided to try Fellowship Bible Church per the recommendation of our friends the Huegels from Guadalajara. Joel Huegel teaches at Tec de Monterrey where Kraig taught, and our families attended the same church in Guad. Joel and Liz's kids and ours went together like salsa and chips last year, and we grown-ups thoroughly enjoyed each other, too. Joel is a LeTourneau grad and FBC is their home church when they visit Longview. Visiting "their" church that first Sunday made them seem a little closer.

The first week the church had a special event which changed up their regular schedule, so only Jon had Sunday School. The second week was Labor Day weekend; Kraig's brother and family were visiting and it made sense to go to a church with which we were somewhat familiar. Jon had liked his class a lot and the girls were begging to get a chance to try their classes.

And Kraig and I? We certainly felt at home. The church reminded us in many ways of our home church in Michigan. The teaching was solid, the people friendly. We liked what we discovered about the church's history and programs. We also found out that a number of families lived right near us, and though unfortunately they didn't have kids near our kids' ages, it was nice to know people were near. By the third Sunday Kraig said, "You know, we can just take the plunge and commit to FBC. We don't have to look around." And with a sigh of relief I agreed. Perhaps there is another church in  the area with deeper teaching or better music or...there's always a list.... But there is a lot to be said for settling in and investing our lives in a new community.

A tidbit from Kraig and my "Lifegroup" (aka grown-up Sunday School)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturdays Gone By

One of the events I really miss from Guadalajara was a monthly get-together some of us started last year. One Saturday a month we'd head to a local park and--well--play. The kids were let loose with some parental interaction. There was bike-riding, trampoline fun, pick-up soccer games, and whatever else came up. The parents would play, but they'd also talk, and talk, and talk. Those of us participating were primarily homeschooling, but that wasn't a requirement. What we did require was that the outing would be on a Saturday so that the working dads could come with the moms and kids. It was a lovely experience, and what I liked particularly about this group was that Kraig and I were connected with both spouses. Kraig had some deep male friendships, but they weren't just any guys. They were the husbands of my close friends and fathers of my kids' friends. I kind of knew it was a unique situation then, but being back in the States has driven that truth home.

Parents' schmooze time
Our connections here in Longview (so far) are a lot like those we had in Michigan. Kraig is forging friendships with profs (primarily male) at the university, and while I'm getting to know some of the wives through Bible study and the monthly wives get-together we aren't getting to know them in the context of couples or families. Our church so far is less connected to our weekday interactions. Or maybe I mean more that the interactions at church have only been there--they haven't overflowed into our lives. I hope that as we get to know folks better there will be more of an overflow, but that may take a while.

This post has actually gone off in a completely different direction than what I originally intended. I was thinking how it was easy to drop everything on a Saturday and head to a park with friends when we were living in an apartment in Guadalajara. Here we've got a house, and Saturday is, so far, for projects and family time (the kids got bikes today and Kraig worked to get them up and running). I wonder if that's the way things typically are for everyone here. Life is busy, and connecting may not rate as high in importance.

I shall have to ponder this.

Guadalajara Parco Metropolitano

Rainy Day Friday

No headache today thanks to Kraig's shoulder massage and a couple ibuprofen last night. The rain that held off yesterday came steadily today, too. The rain postponed a Fall Fest morning with the homeschool community and a lunch date with new friends, but our spirits weren't dampened. It was a day for coziness.

Friday is typically a quieter day anyway and I was relaxed enough (for the most part) to make sure the kids did was needed to be done without too much pressure.

And there was plenty of time to read,

play LEGO,

and let the dolls enjoy a tea party.

We sanded some furniture we're refinishing and then ran to a couple stores. I will say taking all three kids grocery shopping is often either an exercise in futility, or a test to see if I can hold my temper. I'm not sure what or if any of us are learning something. Whatever the case, we survived and were able to pick up Kraig.

Dinner ended up a bit late, but it's Friday night which usually means a show or movie to watch. Kraig and I have had fun introducing the kids to A-Team reruns lately. After that it was a wrap up with story time and Kraig giving the kids lessons on how to speak like Donald Duck...or is it Uncle Scrooge? I couldn't understand a word of it.

Day is done--just about. Tomorrow is another project Saturday. We'll take it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Not Much of Anything

I have little to share today. It's been a nothing-much of a day and I have a headache because my shoulders are in knots, so my thinking is muddled. I need to beg a shoulder massage off of Kriag :) .

It should have poured today. The cloud loomed and thunder rumbled, but it only rained away from us. But that did mean the kids and I could take a walk without getting soaked, so that was nice.

About mid-afternoon Ev charged in to where I was. "Mom!" she exclaimed, "there's no water!" And sure enough, all of the water faucets in the house were completely inoperable. I called our local water company and they confirmed that there was a leak in the neighborhood and the repair would "only be a couple of hours." It's amazing how slowly the hours pass without water access when you aren't prepared. The walk we took did help pass the time. Thankfully the water returned in time to make dinner, but not in time to get to some other projects that required water.

I seem to have wasted a good bit of time today. The kids got done what they needed to do, but I had the vague feeling I should challenge them more, but instead my mind was mush.

Ah well, perhaps I'll be more with it tomorrow. I'm off to get that shoulder massage....

Night Sounds

Tonight we got home from picking up Kraig just as dusk was falling. As we turned in to our subdivision we noticed the "red barn house" as we call it had a number of folks out front setting up for what looked to be a yard sale. In the middle of it were a twin bed mattress and a boxspring, two of the many things on our "much needed" list. By the time we reached our house we'd decided it was work worth walking back to find out if it was a sale and if so, how much they were asking for the mattress and boxspring.
The house across the street
surrounded by pines

We've had some reprieve in the weather here lately, but today was sticky and hot again. East Texas weather is the one downside factor of this move. Thankfully by the time we went for our walk the heat had let up and while the sticky still lingered it carried with it the sweet scent of damp vegetation--pines, moss, mulch. There are huge old trees all around our neighborhood including majestic pines.

Our venture was a success and we now have a mattress and box spring. Kraig and the girls ran to get the van to transport it home, and Jon and I made our way back by foot. Dark had fallen ad it was so quiet. We're in an older neighborhood off all main roads, and Longview isn't exactly a bustling metropolis anyway. As we walked, though, I realized how much sound there actually was. A frog peeped from one dark lawn. A few birds sent out a sleepy call here and there. Random insects tapped and chittered. Underscoring it all was the pervasive hum of the insect empire that outnumbers us humans by a vast multitude. I realized what a comforting sound it is; one of those background noises we take for granted. I hope I won't ever have to go without it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Breath of Fresh Air

Time out with other likeminded women is a breath of fresh air on a stinky hot summer day. I have been blessed so often with this opportunity. During our first fall in Guadalajara I wrote about the refreshment of a Bible study I was able to attend. As that first year progressed, I connected more with these ladies and others who became dear friends and lifelines--fellow moms-in-the-trenches, mentors, thinkers, dreamers.... Back in Michigan and scattered around the world there are other women, both family and friends, whom I treasure. It's hard not to be able to see them.

Here we are in Longview and while I can "connect" with friends far away there is a vital need to meet people here, in person. As soon as we landed at the end of August, two of the "engineering wives" (wives of profs in LeTourneau's engineering department) invited me to a small Tuesday morning Bible study at one of the local churches. I could attend and it was fine for the kids to come and do their work in another room I went and found a group of women of multiple ages and backgrounds who enjoy their time together, but also dig into Scripture. Right now they're working through Hebrews and I was intoxicated all over by discussion covering the New Covenant, etc. (Yes, I get a little carried away with these kinds of studies :) ). The whole time is such a refreshing connection. In addition to this group, a number of the attendees are engineering wives (or wives of husbands who are in related departments at LeTourneau) and these women get together once a month for dinner and fellowship. Tonight we had dinner at the home of one of the families--it's my second one of these.

It will take time, I know, for friendships to grow. It will be a bit before there will be get-together times besides these scheduled ones. I may even need to be the one who initially pushes something. But for now these scheduled events are great for helping me breathe.

Monday, October 10, 2016

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mondays...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mondays are abominable.

I completely agree that the degree of abomination is mostly in relation to one's attitude. But the attitude isn't always mine, and there is only so much I can do about another's. My eldest was in rare form today and she blamed it on the day of the week.

"I never like Mondays," she declared, glower fully engaged. "Mondays are always awful!"

And it was pretty awful, thanks, in a good way to the foul attitude. Middle and youngest child did their fair bit of whining and snipping, too, and everything took about three times as long as it should have. Naturally I was calm and noble throughout, gently leading my fractious young to see that their behavior indicated something hard in their hearts. And they responded with warmth and affection and peace was restored.

Excuse me a minute....
I can't seem to see what I'm writing over the length of my nose....

Okay. No. The truth is I lost it a few times. I try to turn the issue to the heart of the matter rather than just reacting, but I did react badly. There are so many times, particularly with our eldest, that we wonder when and if she'll be willing to let God soften her.

"You need to look at why you're feeling this way and behaving like this," I pled with her at one point. "Write it down and do a little self-analysis. Pray about it."

"I'm self-analyzing myself all the time!" she shot back. And knowing her, I don't doubt it. There's a battle that often goes on inside that head and heart of hers and all Kraig and I can do is pray that she'll surrender it at some point and stop trying to always be the one in charge.

Meanwhile, Kraig and I keep analyzing ourselves, her, how we're dealing with things, and praying that we're taking the right steps. I was reminded again today by an article my mom sent me that transitions are tough. And while (or because) our eldest has always been stubborn, passionate, too-smart-for-her-own-good, these transitions have often been more difficult for her than her siblings.

For me right now, I'm just thankful that today is over. Onward to Tuesday!