Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Village

Recently I've read a lot about people longing for the village that it takes to raise a child.  Some of the things I've read talk about how women before working used to step in and help each other out. Others talk about how distopian our society has become. Many are nostalgic and long for an era when children ran about until sunset (during the summers) playing. Of course, they came home for supper, but then right back out they went until the street lights came on.

And as I've read each and every one of these articles, I've had to stop myself from wanting to scream so recreate it. The village still exists! It does y'all! I live in it.

At the beginning of our summer, Ella Rose asked me not to plan anything. I balked! I was shocked. What would we do? Wouldn't she get bored. And then, I paused. I contemplated and I sounded the idea off my momma. Give it to her, she urged. My momma went on to tell me, that if Ella Rose was asking for an unscheduled summer at five years old, that said something. And it did. So I gave it to her! We've not done day camps. We've not planned out our days. We've enjoyed these long lazy days of summer, and truthfully I wish they'd last forever. Well, mostly I wish that. I also wish my house could stay cleaner during them, but you can't get all your wishes granted at the same time. So for now, I'll focus on summer and children playing.

We've been particularly blessed in our neighborhood. We have ten children in three houses. All the children are under ten. And they have an absolute ball! Even the smaller ones. My three year old can barely get her breakfast eaten before she's ready to play with her friends. And play she does. ALL.DAY.LONG!  In and out of the houses the children go. Back and forth between the yards.

Snacks are consumed everywhere. Each family contributes a little and I suspect the children graze on an off all day. They eat jello at one home. Then popcorn from a second. Popsicles from a third and so the cycle goes. Each house feels like home, to every child.

Some of the children knock on all the doors. Others, walk in without knocking on any. If any of them are hurt, they simply run for the nearest adult. If a child does something wrong, all the others jump to tell on them. And they have grand adventures. Jumping on  trampolines, throwing rocks in the creek, searching for and capturing tadpoles. Water fights! Creating wade pools in sandboxes. Playing house, or puppy dog. Hanging with friends until the street lights come on.

It's wonderful! I may have only two children, but many days I get to enjoy many, many more. And my girls may only have one sister apiece, but they are living a life where they are two of ten!

As for the Mommas in the neighborhood, we all have our own struggles and schedules. Both the other moms are in school, so I'm the only full time Mommy. But having those friends close by is grand!

Need a cup of sugar? Simply walk next door. Better yet, send a child to get it for you. Out of toilet paper? No worries. A neighbor will have some extra. But that's not all. Each of the three houses contributes to the food in the others and I don't just mean snacks. One Mom has a source for free farmers market food. So when she stops by there she picks up extra for the other two moms. Another mom knows about a shipping/packing vegetable plant that allows the public to collect non-grade A food fo
r free. So she regularly brings back more fresh veggies for all the homes. The third home plans adventures for the children: Easter egg hunts, water balloon fights, ice cream sundae parties, movie nights.

Each home plays a central role in our village. And each person helps to make it what it is. When we need a listening ear, there's a neighbor there. If a dog gets out of the fence. No worries, a neighbor will help round her up. Long day, or busy cleaning house. Send the kids to the neighbors for a bit. Need to run an errand and don't need your helpers tagging along.  Leave your children playing with their friends (at a neighbors) outside in the neighborhood under another mommas watchful eye.

Amazingly, it works. And awesomely our village has extended to our church. All ten children now are attending the same church. Interestingly enough, none of the households send their children to the same schools.

And as I ramble along I can't help but think. This is what I've longed for. This is what a village should look like. And I can't help but be thankful, that God has enabled each of us to play our part in this village.

Villages aren't dead. They exist today. I live in one. Take a good look around. Knock on your neighbors door. Send your kids out to play. You just might discover that you live in a village too.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Creative juices cleaning up a storm

I've been joking with a good friend who is currently 9 months pregnant that I've been nesting for her. And seriously y'all, I could be!  Because I'm definitely not pregnant, but I've been deep cleaning
and de-cluttering my house the way I did before my first born graced us with her presence. So far I've deep cleaned the bathroom, hallway, dining room, & living room. Next up are the kitchen, laundry room, guest room/office and all of the bedrooms. I'm determined everything will be clean and de-cluttered before school begins. Whew! Wish me luck. My girls are determined that their friends need to play inside every day. It's an ongoing battle, but I shall win!

And not only have I been cleaning up a storm, but I've found that my creative juices have been particularly flowing this summer. Not only have I painted both exterior doors aqua and turned the front porch into abstract art, but I've refinished/painted numerous pieces of furniture, the most recent piece of furniture being my paternal grandmother "E"'s buffet. I inherited it when she passed away and have enjoyed it ever since, but  the wear and tear had worn on it. So I decided to grab my acrylic paints and fix it right up. I wasn't really sure how to describe it's refinishing, but my husband was. He said that I white washed it. After he said that, I realized he was right! It's now off white with blue/green streaks throughout. I am really proud of how it has turned out. See below (this was before cleaning and de-cluttering so please ignore the mess underneath)

Other creative projects I've undertaken in the past few days are: baking bread, cutting out a pattern for my youngest daughter's first day of school outfit, recovering the girls art display boards with fabric, and discussing guest writing on a friend's blog!  

She has an impressive blog: Make it Work Molly and had posted a query on Facebook asking if any of us knew Mommas who pack bento lunches. And I do! So we the possibility of my writing about that, bread making, etc. I can hardly wait! I even got my Momma in on the action and she's creating a logo for my new blog! I'll share more about the new blog when I get it up and going.

Speaking of getting up and going, many people have asked me what I plan to do with my time when both girls go to school this fall. I've thrown out answers such as: have a clean house, exercise, substitute teach, etc. In truth, as school approaches this year I am beginning to believe that this school year will reinvigorate my creative side. I am hopeful that I will be able to scrapbook, sew, craft, and even finally update Evie Alice's baby book (it's never been filled out nearly as well as Ella Rose's was). 

It's going to be a great school year, y'all.  I am eagerly anticipating the adventures that await.  Join me won't you?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nostalgic memories and The Fox Theatre

This past weekend Josh and I took our daughters to see the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid at the Fox Theatre. We had a wonderful time. Granted, both girls slept through a large portion of the performance, but they were enthralled by the Fox, overall, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Ariel. I was a bit skeptical when I read that the production had added three new songs to the story to make the play a bit more about daddies and daughters, than about love, etc. I didn't know how well that would go off with our little Ariel connoisseurs. It was great! I felt tears coming to my eyes during part of the show and I am not one to tear up at movies, plays, or most works of art.

After showing the girls the stars in the sky at the Fox Theatre, and thoroughly enjoying the show, we headed back to my childhood hometown. The girls and I had already spent four days there, and had easily settled back in to North Georgia life. For those who think that there's no difference in north Georgia and south Georgia life you have another think coming. It's quite different! The cultural differences can be hard to explain, but I am blessed to have settled in and learned to function smoothly (or at least semi-functionally) in both.

This particular trip to north GA brought back more memories than most. The first nostalgic memories I had were when Momma and I decided to take the children to The Pocket. The Pocket is so named because it is in a valley surrounded by mountains and is a quiet little state park that consists of a bubbling cold water spring. The children, my nephews, daughters, and friend Jenni's children waded in the cold spring just like my sister, friends, church members, and I used to do. As they were wading, they found small snails attached to rocks. They also discovered and tasted fresh watercress, for the first time.

When I was a small child, small meaning in elementary school, my momma used to take us to a spring on the road behind my elementary school. My sister and I used to wade in that spring and play with the small snails in the water. We also collected watercress for salads and such for our momma. Watching the girls do this brought those memories to the forefront of my mind.

I also found memories of the church picnics that St. Timothy's used to have at The Pocket bubbling up. The last time I attended one of those a former beau, Casey, and I sat by the spring and talked for ages.  He was my first "official" beau (at 14) and if I remember correctly  we last visited when I was 20 or 21. It was on this last visit that we sat with our feet in the stream at The Pocket. We were amazed that the feelings for each other were still there from seven years before and even more surprised that they were just as strong if not stronger. But there were just too many obstacles from outside forces to ever really pursue anything. We belonged to drastically different denominations (he was at the church picnic only because he was visiting his dad and step-mom) and it would have meant committing to a very long distance relationship. The time spent there together, that day, will forever stay in my mind and heart. He's since happily married as have I. We both have children and are pleased with the direction that our lives have taken.  He lives abroad and I in south GA. His dad always keeps me informed when something big happens in his son's life and I'm sure he keeps him informed when something important happens in mine as well.

Another major event that brought back nostalgic memories during this last visit to Calhoun (north GA) centered around the swimming pool at my parents' home. When my sister and I were young, perhaps just a bit older than my daughters are now, my parents offered to build a swimming pool for us IF we would learn to swim. We did, of course, and I remember vividly swimming in the pool in in the middle of winter for the first time. This past winter was particularly cold in north Georgia and the brick retaining wall (30+ years old) fell into the swimming pool. Unfortunately, their homeowners insurance wouldn't cover repairing or replacing the wall and pool, so  after considering all their options my parents have decided to fill in the pool and build a coy pond as well as reverting to the hill that existed in this portion of their back yard, before the swimming pool was installed. Not only did my children enjoy observing the demolition of the pool and pool's deck, the demolition  also had me thinking back to all the adventures, pool parties and other parties we'd had over the years in this portion of the yard.

One such memory, of an event that occurred before the pool was constructed, had  to do with a slip n slide party that my little sister had. She wanted to have a slip n slide party for her birthday. We had the perfect hill for sledding in the winter and well, slip n sliding in the summer, BUT and this is a big BUT, there were Sweet gum trees that had dropped their Sweet gum balls all over the hill. My parents told my sister and me to pick all of these up *before* the slip n slide was placed on the hill. In all of our youthful wisdom, we decided that we didn't need to remove those. We would just slide over the sweet gum balls instead. MISTAKE! We were so scratched up from those old sweet gum balls, I don't think we thought we'd ever heal, but we learned a good lesson from it and in truth had a blast in the process.

The thoughts of days gone by didn't end there, though. On Saturday, I attended a political event for a candidate for Governor of Georgia, Jason Carter.  The event was in the Harris Arts Center in downtown Calhoun. One of my oldest friend's brothers and parents were integral in helping to make this event occur. So as I headed in the door there, I wasn't at all surprised to see Hayden or Mrs. Brooks. There were many people present at the reception that I knew from my childhood in Calhoun, including my childhood friend, Heath.

Heath as I've mentioned in a previous entry on this blog befriended me at the young age of ten, when there were false rumors circulating about me. He truly changed my life, at the darkest hour of my life, and for that I am eternally grateful. As he and I were visiting, at the reception, he introduced me to his wife, Kelly, who I immediately liked, & enjoyed talking to. I was surprised to discover she's a teacher and that they are expecting their first child.

It was the news of the first child that truly sparked my next memories. Heath's sister, Heather,  was a lifesaver and was SO sweet to me after the birth of my first child. The conversations, pointers, information that she shared with me that not everyone magically and immediately falls into deep maternal love with their child at birth soothed my worried, postpartum nerves and helped me through those first three months of motherhood. Don't get me wrong, I love both my daughters tremendously, but the bonds were ones that grew with time, they weren't instantaneous. I wonder sometimes how many other people have found the same to be true.

As Kelly and I sat and talked, I tried to sooth her worried nerves about pregnancy and  I began to imagine what phenomenal parents both she and Heath will be. Thinking about this brought back so many more memories from childhood.

Heath was my dearest friend and even though we got along marvelously, most of the time, there were those disagreements that I think all relationships go through; however, we were young and deeply convicted in our beliefs. We had many drop down drag out arguments in our lives. BUT I was typically right,  of course. Ha ha!

He used to get SO mad at me, and I at him because we strongly both believed that our own perspective was right and the ONLY right perspective. And yet, our friendship forced us to look at the other person's perspective or at least hear it.

And there were arguments or discussions from times in our friendship when I was at fault, and times he was as well. But as all good friendships work,  regardless of how furious we were with each other we had each others back. Even if we were chewing each other out and fussing along the way.

Some of those memories are of my grand plan as a freshman in high school to mess up my grades at the county high school, so my parents would send me back to the city school where I'd gone to school from 5th grade on and was currently taking an early morning class.

My parents decided to move my sister to the county middle school, and me to the county high school right before my freshman year of high school. Heath and I had both decided we were going to take debate in high school and I'd take physical science with my Momma all summer to prepare since debate would fill the time slot allotted for physical science we both would have to take physics our senior year.

But the debate partnership never occurred. My parents decided to move me to the county schools, Heath believed it was my decision and was furious and so in my stupidity and naivety I decided to let my grades tank in an effort to get my parents to return me to the city school.

 I had gotten a progress report from the county and was just finishing my early morning typing class at the city high. I had a ride waiting to take me to the county school to begin another school day when I mentioned my plan to him that day. To say he gave me an earful would be an understatement. He told me that it was a ridiculous plan and that the city schools wouldn't want me back with those grades. He went on to tell me he didn't want to hang out with someone who purposefully destroyed their chances for a future, or something to that effect.  His reaction spurred me into action and I pulled my grades up, I was never a scholar, but must have done okay since I ended up teaching. And no, I never managed to get back to the city school.

I could relay many more "discussions" that we had through the years. Such as his reaction when I totaled my first car, didn't break a thousand on the SAT, or piddly arguments that we had through the years. Oh, how I dreaded hearing, "I'll call this evening and we will talk about ______ later."

Reflecting back on that now, twenty odd years later, I realize that even though we usually ended up furious over whatever we disagreed upon during that phone call;  the time in between the initial argument and the "discussion" that ensued later was so smart! It gave us time to reflect upon our thoughts and calm down before talking further. It was the right way to handle things, plus it really made me get my arguments ready before the conversation. He probably did too. And I can remember clearly wondering how he'd react if I'd just not answer that phone, but I never did. I suspect an in person conversation would have been even more heated. There's no doubt our stubborn natures and intellects were built for debate, and definitely shaped many of the arguments. How I hated those disagreements, but I was certain and still know, I must have been right. ;-P

And as I thought about that stubborn debate intellect, I found myself thinking about my college debate partner, and good friend Jeremy, and how our interactions were similar although no cooling off period was involved in our heated discussions. Those memories make me have to laugh.

With Jeremy, when I would go off on a tizzy about things not functioning the way I thought they should or when I disagreed with Jeremy over the way things were working, he would listen to me carry on, or at least appear to. He wouldn't interrupt me but wait and let me pour forth the full wrath of my fury and then calmly say: "Are you done, yet?" How I dreaded that statement!! I knew what was coming next. It  would be his turn to speak and pour forth his wrath or argument as to why it was the way it was and why he disagreed with me.

So I'd tell him I wasn't done when he asked, just to postpone the inevitable. It never worked. He still made me listen to his side...and I'm glad he did. We didn't always agree, but it was that same determined, stubborn debate perspective that fueled this response.

And in these memories, I find myself wondering if those same tactics be used upon their own children? I suspect they will, and God bless them every one!

 Jeremy is now blessed with a sweet and beautiful four month old daughter. I have no doubt as she goes through childhood or perhaps in her teenage angst she will hear from him, "Are you done, yet?" Heaven help her when she says yes. And I suspect since God has a sense of humor,  that both Jeremy and Heath will have children every bit as stubborn as they are.

God knows both of mine certainly are as (if not more) stubborn as I am. And I'm thankful for my many friendship, partnerships, and competitions with these two Alpha males. I have no doubt  that Jeremy is already a spectacular father, and know that  Heath will be.

As I finish this trip down memory lane,  let me just say that I  pray to God to help me be the kind of mother that my girls need.  I pray they find friends in their lives that are just as willing to listen, counsel, care, argue, fuss at them (when needed) and be there for them just like mine have been and are there for me.