This month has found some combination of our family crisscrossing the country over and over again.  The kids and I are done with our travels, but Eric's continue this week with trips to NYC, Seattle, Sao Paolo and Newport Beach.  The job search is on!

I had to check out this place for myself- just doing my due diligence, you know.

Maybe in a few more weeks we'll know where our new home will soon be.  In the meantime, the knowledge that I can hop on a plane with all four of my kids, by myself, and with only one day's notice has changed my life....not that I'm ever going to do it again....but it's nice to know I can:).


Good things

This morning I was talking with Lindsay about the strange peace I've felt for the past few months.  I was saying how amazing it's been that I've been able to love this life we're living in Atlanta, even as a possible move lurks around the corner.  I wondered what had caused this unexpected bout of emotional health in a situation where I would normally be falling apart.  I don't like leaving people or places, and I don't like new and different, and yet here I am, starting down both with a smile on my face, without having made any deliberate effort to do so.

Tonight I was feeding Eleanor and it hit me.  It's her.  Having a child is like meeting a part of yourself you never consciously knew was there.  Each of my children has introduced me to myself in some new way.  And Ellie's greatest gift (in my opinion, at least), her contentedness, has taught me by example.

If I could sum up Eleanor's life philosophy it would be this:  Trust the universe.  Someone will feed you and clean you up, eventually.  Someone will give you hugs and kisses.  Interesting things will cross your field of vision if you just stay still and wait for them.  Your eyes will adjust to the darkness.  You will finally wiggle your way over to that plastic dinosaur.  You will learn to like yogurt.  It will be okay- all of it.

She is extraordinarily happy, this child.  It's a mystery to me, especially after her fireball of a sister (in whom I see much of myself).  She's changed me- she's changed all of us.  We smile more because of her. We take more deep breaths.  

We know that good things are coming our way.


Resolved: Enjoy life

Eric and Brigham, eating the good stuff, with S and K from across the street. 
On New Year's Eve I was not a very good wife.  Eric got sick and begged off going with me to a neighborhood party I'd been looking forward to.  He looked bad- I could tell he felt awful, and yet I flounced out of the house without so much as a backward glance when I learned he planned to spend the evening in bed (I did apologize for this later....kind of....sorry sweetie:)).

When we reached the party house, the kids were ushered down to the basement where a sitter and a wide array of crafts, food and movies awaited them.  Upstairs there was music, shrimp cocktail and fascinating conversation on every side.  I met an entire family who'd just moved to the neighborhood from Bhutan. And a woman who'd just returned from a medical mission to Kenya.  And an Indian man who, when I told him I had four children, handed his wine glass to the person next to him and bowed before me.  It was kind of an awesome night.

When I got home, all I could think about was how completely relaxed I'd felt.  No children underfoot, talking with old friends, making new ones, learning new things (like that there's a country called Bhutan!?), eating shrimp, being a grownup.

Last night, after Eric had belly-flopped on the bed next to me, I rattled off my New Year's resolutions.  I mentioned a resolution to enjoy life more.  He said, "yeah, like the other night when Eric was at a friend's house and we spent an hour playing legos with Brigham?".  There was a long pause, then "uh.......no.......not like that."  Because I love Brigham, but I'd kind of rather poke myself in the eye than play legos.  Playing legos falls into the category of things I feel guilty about not liking to do.  Just being honest.

What I meant by enjoying life was figuring out things that make me feel happy and relaxed and energized and doing them more often.  Even if it seems selfish.  Like going to parties (having a party?), or walking the dog for two hours on a Sunday afternoon, or talking to a friend on the phone while swinging in the hammock.  Crazily, when I make time to do those things, I'm a much better mother and wife, so it's not so selfish after all.  I might even have it in me to play legos for a little while:).

It's not that I don't do these things.  It's just that I do them approximately.  I unload the dishwasher and fold laundry while I'm talking to that friend, or I take the kids along to the party and on the walk.  Which is fine- sometimes, but sometimes it's like eating fat-free ice cream.  Better to go for the good stuff, even if it means having it less often.

I don't know- we'll see how it goes....


A-town Christmas

Christmas was a whirlwind.  Filled with get-togethers at church, in the neighborhood and at school, incoming and out-going treats, present-making and mailing, phone calls to family in far-flung places, singing, car- buying, colds all around and a lovely visit from family to top it all off.

A family in our neighborhood had a life-sized Santa statue on their front porch, and while driving past one day Marley asked me, "Mama, what's that monkey over there?"  She didn't quite get the whole Santa thing, which, quite honestly, is fine with me.  But it was still cute to see her and Eleanor sit on Santa's lap at the ward Christmas party.

I spent a LOT of time driving Eric Jr. to and from his rehearsals and performances with the Atlanta Boy Choir.  This is his second year in the choir, but both the music and the time commitment have grown more serious this year, as he's graduated from the training choir to Choir I (which is a step below the touring choir- who are going to Russia this summer!).  During the holiday season they sang in five languages at the State Capital (below), a Monastery, a Basilica, and a Cathedral.

As for me, I'm pretty sure I've earned a reputation as a totally inadequate "choir mom", after incidents including a forgotten robe, a broken-down car (right smack in front of the Capital building), an unintended detour resulting in a late arrival, wrong-colored shoes, a hysterical phone call when I couldn't find the pick-up spot, and a car often bursting with children, usually including one or two tag-alongs from the neighborhood.

Poor Eric- I tell myself it builds character.  We were so pleased to see that his confidence was even strong enough to sing a duet with his father in church on Christmas morning.  They sang the first verse of Silent Night in the original German (because the Boy Choir had sung it in German, and Eric didn't know the words in English).  It was beautiful and so amazing to watch him do something I would never in a million years have been brave enough to do.

Christmas Eve was chaotic and exhausting, and I was once again SO grateful for our tradition, inherited for Eric's family, of the annual fondue dinner  It's special, delicious, all my children eat it, I get lots of cheesy kisses, and it takes 10 minutes to make.  If only it were less expensive.....

I was so happy with how our Christmas Day unfolded (so happy that I apparently didn't take any pictures).  Last year I regretted giving in, as always, to the impulse to buy my children's happiness with lots of presents that ended up being quickly forgotten in a sea of wrapping paper and over-abundance.  This year we implemented the 3 gift rule: each child's Santa presents were limited to something to wear, something to read and something to play with.  When added to the gifts from extended family and friends, I think we hit the sweet spot between not-enough and too much.

One thing I did regret was not having time to make the kids something more special from me- the past two years I did bathrobes and money banks, but this year all I managed was to print out some quotes I thought they would like and stick them in frames we already had.  I've noticed that the bathrobes and money banks are treasured possessions that have long outlasted Legos and Star Wars figures, so I'll have to start earlier on my homemade gifts next year.

The best part of our Christmas was a visit from Eric's sister, Erica (I know:-) ) and her family.  We had several days of lazy mornings at home in PJ's, followed by afternoon adventures in the city and cozy dinners at home.  My favorite stop was the Martin Luther King Center in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, where Dr. King grew up.  We missed out on the tour of his birth home (yay home birth!!) due to the crowds, but we did get to learn all about his life in the museum, and then visit the historic church where he was pastor.  It was truly inspiring, and made me proud to be a resident of the city where he was born and grew up.

We also spent an afternoon at the Atlanta Fed (no pictures allowed), watching though a giant window as robots carried cash around the vault and learning about our country's banking system.  My favorite part was chatting up the guards (who actually aren't guards at all, but law-enforcement agents for the Federal Reserve Police force).  Despite the massive rifles at their sides, they're the nicest policemen I've ever met- I even learned that bank employees can sometimes score a tour of the cash vault itself- one more reason to come visit us here!

We also took in a basketball game at Emory one night.  Free admission...court side seats...free popcorn....I love my Blue Devils, but as far as a family activity is concerned, this beat out Cameron Indoor Stadium in my book.  Eric Jr. got to see his coach from basketball camp score a few points and even talk to him after the game.

 My cousin is one of the dearest people on earth to me, so the sight of my children enjoying their time with their wonderful, sweet, fun cousins warmed my heart.  We're already plotting our summer fun in case this time of living on the same coast is brief.

So that was our Christmas.  Now it's time to turn our thoughts forward to a new year.  If 2011's exit is any indication, 2012's entrance is bound to be sweet.