A few things...

First, Marley would like to publicly thank her personal seamstresses, Eryn and Cindy. Eryn made the adorable brown dress pictured below. Cindy made the precious white dress in the picture from the last post. What did I ever do to deserve such kind and talented friends?

Last week it was time for the 2nd and 3rd grade musicals at the boys' school. I guess not many people have kids in consecutive grades, because they repeated the same performance twice- 2nd grade at 6:00 and 3rd grade at 7:00. Eric made us close our eyes and plug our ears while the second graders performed his class song, which we did, even though I think the parents sitting next to us were slightly offended. It was a "garden" theme, and each class dressed up and sang a song about a different kind of plant. Brigham was a weed and had a cool rap to sing. Poor Eric had to be a "lovely flower" and do ballet moves to the music from Waltz of the Flowers. I had to question the music teacher's sanity on that one, but he was a good sport.

The following night was Eric's 9th birthday party, for which he decided to invite friends over for pizza, cake, and a movie. All went well, aside from one child having to go home sick and another one trying to kick in our kitchen door just as all the parents were arriving, big Eric scolding him, and his mom showing up while he was crying hysterically on our couch. Kind of embarrassing, but a fun night was had nonetheless.

Eric really wanted a chocolate cake with black frosting, so tried my best and used up my entire jar of pro-grade black gel food coloring, but it still looked brown. Oh well, it tasted good and he didn't seem to mind.

And finally, I discovered that my worries over Marley's glasses covering up her cute face were totally unfounded. She's even cuter than before, if that's possible. Every now and then I catch her trying to put them on top of her head, like she sees Eric do with his sunglasses, but other than that, she's kept them on!

We're headed to Durham for Thanksgiving...can't wait to see old friends, visit old haunts and eat delicious food. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving:).


In a strange land

Yesterday during sacrament meeting I had a moment. I was sitting between the boys in the very front pew, watching Eric give a talk while keeping one eye on Marley who was running wild in front of the stand. I pictured the scene in six months, with another little person on the pew and realized that we are on our way to taking up our own row.

My mind wandered to a time when I was six or seven and one of my friends told me that my Dad talked funny. I still remember my feelings of utter incomprehension- he talked perfectly normally! It was years before I was able to hear the heavy Egyptian accent that was obvious to everyone else. I was just so used to it, I never even noticed. Even now that I can hear his accent, I still have to occasionally ask him what a word he just used meant- his vocabulary is better than mine.

The other night we got a letter from one of the young men in our old ward. We've been writing to him while he's on his mission in Denver. He told us about a sixteen-year-old girl he's been teaching who's getting baptized in a few weeks. It took me back to when I was sixteen, feeling a small part of what my Dad must have felt when his plane landed in New York thirty-something years ago.

The church seemed like a parallel universe I had never known existed. A place where we make macaroni and cheese from scratch*....and where we sit in a sunlit room on Wednesday nights listening to all kinds of advice about living the gospel and write notes in a cute little journal....where families pray before they eat....where we all have relatives who live in Utah....where women (and men) think of staying home to raise a family as a career (huh? there's more to life than getting into a good college and then going to graduate school!?)....where we watch Disney movies even though we're teenagers and everything around us is rated-R....where we go to dances with actual decorations where boys actually ask girls to dance....

I could go on, but my point is that it was all foreign to me, and I watched it, riveted, totally convinced from the almost very beginning that I wanted to live there, in that parallel universe, with those amazing people. At first I didn't think about being one of them, I just knew I wanted to be there, because I felt loved and supported.

I realized soon enough that there were things I would have to sacrifice to live in that world, but I decided it was worth it. As the years passed I began to change, bit by bit, so slowly I hardly noticed it. I got married and had my own beautiful children. I went to church Sunday after Sunday. I met friends who showed me behind the scenes of those incredible families I first knew when I was sixteen. That they were human, with human weaknesses, that their houses weren't always clean, and their macaroni and cheese wasn't always from scratch...but that it's normal and okay to have weaknesses and imperfections, because they help us to be humble, compassionate, more like the Savior. I even had in-laws in Utah!

Sitting in church yesterday I realized that I'm not a stranger in that wonderful land anymore. Those women that I looked up to, who cooked and cleaned and sewed and served and prayed- I am one of them. Minus the sewing. And my children don't hear my accent. And that elusive goal- taking up your own whole pew at church- it's within my grasp:).

*It's not that I'm saying that only Mormons cook from scratch or do any of these things for that matter, it's just that, honestly, I had not been exposed to those things before I was introduced to the church. Once in college, I was suprised when my friend Carrie, who wasn't a member of the church, brought me dinner. She reminded me that "Presbyterians do nice things too!"


On a good note

When we moved to Atlanta, life grabbed me by the collar and gave me a good spin around the room. Before I knew what was happening we were involved in all kinds of activities, from velodrome racing to choir, to chess club, to 5K's, to art lessons, to cub scouts. I guess I got a little overexcited about the fun opportunities of living in a big city.

Over the past few weeks several of those activities have wound down for the winter and life has returned to a slightly more relaxed pace. But I've noticed something disturbing: during those months of running ragged, after days of getting lost on roads I didn't know, racing from activity to activity, frantically checking homework and slapping dinner on the table, I had formed a pretty consistent habit of tossing Marley into her crib, collapsing on the couch and then shooing the boys off to bed without much of a goodnight routine. And those were the nights I actually participated, as opposed to watching from the couch while poor Eric handled it solo.

As I thought about this I decided that there are certain points in the day that make a lasting impression on my kids. I pride myself in my ability to always look (and usually be) ecstatic to see them when they wake up in the morning. Or....when I wake up in the morning I should say:). I usually send them out the door with a smile and a kiss and a genuine wish that they have a wonderful day. When they get home from school I'm ready with snacks and inquiries about their day. My favorite thing to ask is "did anything interesting happen at school?"- that always gets them talking.

But then. Sometime during dinner prep I fizzle. By bedtime I'm totally out of steam and feel like I have nothing left. But the other night, as I plunked Marley in the crib and turned to sneak out, her sweet, soft "night night" tugged at my heart and pulled me back into the room. I sat down on the floor and started singing. Half an hour later I heard her breath in that way babies breathe when they've just fallen asleep- mothers know it. I smiled to think of my voice carrying her safely to dreamland. Then I went into the boys' room and read them a chapter from their book and kissed them goodnight in their beds. And even though I was still tired and still drained, I felt so good. Like I had really done my job that day.

From now on, I want everyday to end that way. I can't be a perfect mom all day long, but I can end the day with songs, stories and kisses.


Date Night

The other night I realized that in the three months we'd lived in Atlanta, we had been out on exactly one date. So Friday night we shooed the kids over to the neighbors' house and took off into the city.

The plan was practical- I had some things to return at Ikea, so we would head there first, eat in their cafeteria (disgusting, in a yummy kind of way) and then hit the Apple Store for some advice from the genius bar on why the nano I got for my birthday won't turn off...

On our way we had to drive through midtown, where Eric works. The tall buildings glittered in the dark and my mind wandered to what it would be like if we had just met. If this was our first date and he was impressing me by pointing out the different buildings and landmarks in the city. I was pretty sure we wouldn't be headed to Ikea for 3.99 Swedish meatballs.

So when we passed a swanky Thai restaurant and Eric mentioned that someone at work had told him it was the best Thai in the city, I proposed we ditch our plans and eat there instead. We made the detour, stopping first at a bakery down the street from the bank to pick out a dessert for later.

Dinner was lovely. After finishing every last crumb on our plates we walked back to the parking garage and opened the tailgate on the Volvo. We sat and talked while we ate our desserts- a chocolate tart for Eric and a bacon cupcake for me. Back at the bakery I had taken one look and snatched it up. I can think of two reasons why a woman would do such a thing: She's either a relentless adventurer, or she's pregnant.

I've never been very adventurous.


Scenes from a new beach

As summer wound down we decided to go exploring on the gulf coast. It was our first true family vacation, all by ourselves, and our first time on the gulf.

Day one brought back memories of my childhood summers on the Outer Banks, with biting black flies out in force. The three boys were a bit disappointed to see that St. George Island, Fla. looked pretty similar to the Carolina coast. I had promised "sugar white sand and clear emerald water" and I think their imaginations got the best of them. You COULD see to the bottom of the ocean.

On day two the black flies decided to get their kicks on some other beach and we relaxed and enjoyed the sun and sand. Eric swam out to meet the dolphins passing by but never got close enough to really swim with them. I was watching from the shore, trying to direct him when I saw a huge SHARK swim past. Of course that didn't phase him at all.

The night before we went home we drove across the seven-mile bridge to Appalachicola, a beautiful victorian fishing town on the coast. We had an amazing seafood dinner in a gazebo on the water.

Sunday morning we woke up early and headed back to Appalachicola for church. There were five cars in the parking lot and about twelve people inside. Of course I had remembered to pack everyone's church clothes but my own, so I stuck out like a sore thumb. The service was beautiful and we even stumbled upon some old friends from our UW days who were in the area on a camping trip. Small world!

Back in the car, we listened to Peter and the Starcatchers all the way home, and Marley even held it together until we hit the city. Amazing what a few days at the beach will do...