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Finding the Key

11 Jul

DSC_0113Last year I wrote a Smith Voices letter, which praised the SAQ’s reporting on burgeoning careers, but wondered if they may print something to inspire me in my new career as Managing Partner of Household Affairs and Crisis Management, otherwise known as a stay-at-home parent. The letter generated some interesting responses, notably the assertion that motherhood was commonplace and did not deserve mention in a magazine that was intended to praise success. Motherhood as a commonplace profession is a sensitive subject and one that deserves its own space, but what captured my attention most about this response was the notion of success. By choosing to stay at home with my family, did I give up my chance at being successful or noteworthy?

Just this past week, while visiting with a dear friend from my hometown, this same discussion came up in conversation. We talked about my Smith Voices piece, the differences between men and women, the latest hot-topic book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg and finally about how Smith seemed to produce a different breed of women. He mentioned that he had always thought us Smithies to be a bit intense. He had visited me a few times in college and has continued friendships with some of my friends post-graduation so I feel he knows us well enough to make such a statement. Let it be known that this is a guy who jumps off cliffs for the fun of it and flies across the world to summit dangerous peaks so he knows a few things about intensity.

He’s not the only one to make such an astute observation. I think Jane Lynch explained this intensity the best in her 2012 Commencement Address, You are the women of Smith. You are fiercely independent, wicked smart, trail blazing, uber confident and shockingly entitled.” And it’s true. The moment we stepped foot on campus, we were told time and time again that Smith women can accomplish anything they set their mind to and that we are only capable of success. In other words, alongside the education we soaked up from the classroom, we were pumped full of confidence. Not a bad way to be sent off into the world.

So you can imagine, as I am kneeling on the floor of my laundry room folding a few dozen washcloths that are primarily used to clean up the urine artfully sprayed on our floors by my potty-training son, why the idea of success and whether or not I qualify as one, is still rumbling about in my head. Have I let my alma mater down?

I think not.

The intensity that my friend touched on (and that Smith cultivated) is still there. The desire to learn and master is still alive and well. I have simply chosen to channel this energy in a different manner than most of those triumphant women in the pages of SAQ.  I don’t think the fact that I quit a Wall Street job to live on a farm and spend the majority of my time outside digging in the dirt or that I find great joy in making my own jam surprises any one of my classmates. I am grateful to Smith in many ways, but ultimately it was the confidence drilled in me there as a student that allowed me to quit a promising career and explore a new life.

My definition of success has changed over time and it will probably continue to evolve but at this stage in the game, I can only trust that if you are happy with your days, you are most definitely a rock star. Honestly, what can be more rewarding and telling than the smile you wear on your face?

Clean as a Whistle

13 May

DSC_0040I think we have officially made the switch from city kid to country kid – although I doubt they could have qualified as nice, clean city kids, they have never been one to shy away from dirt and I have never been one to discourage it. But today definitely reminded me that I live on a farm.

We start the afternoon building bow and arrows out of string and tree branches – they will be used against the bad guys on our walk. Maya has decided that she wants to collect some more llama fiber that is scattered all across the pasture from when said llama was killed by the cougar a few months ago. Nothing like a mission to collect fur/hair from a dead carcass.

We get sidetracked by the (living) llamas and horses  at the barn and before I know it, Sebastien is sitting, naked-butt and all, happy as can be in the horse water trough. The dirty, grassy water trough. Maya dutifully strips down to join him. (Remember, we walked out here through piles of llama and horse poop, which I can only imagine ended up on their shoes – shoes that are now jumping up and down in said water trough.)

So here she is, splashing water all over her body and scrubbing her face, all the while gleefully telling me how she will not need to take a bath tonight since she is cleaning herself now.

Uh huh.

I look at them and giggle a little. Oh to be a kid and enjoy these little moments of pure happiness, totally unaware of the grossness of the situation.

DSC_0038We then march across the fields to collect fiber and check on the skeleton – luckily we are distracted by one of the creeks where Maya picks a big bundle of skunk cabbage leaves and instructs us to stick them in our shirts as they will be our fairy wings. So now in addition to the possibly poopy but definitely grassy and dirty sheen to their skin, they stink like skunk cabbage.

The clincher is at dinner when Maya grabs a raven feather out of her hair (she stuck it in her pigtail buns) and starts playing with it while eating her food. Nick is so disgusted. He attempts to explain to her why feathers from birds are quite filthy, but she retorts that it is clean since she found it by the water trough.

Naturally.

Les Saisons

30 Apr

Another difference that I have noticed from living on the farm: the seasons are quite apparent.

The first signs of Spring could not be missed – the chatter of the birds intensified, the slight warmth in the afternoon was appreciated, we had a pair of mating eagles visiting us for days on end and the slow changes of the flowers, plants and trees were clear as day.

This was the first year that I can remember not pining for Spring to arrive – the Winter didn’t seem to bother me as much this time around. It probably has something to do with the gazillion ski weekends and the fact that I have two very active youngsters who seem to keep me quite busy and therefore, perhaps I just didn’t have the time to wish away Winter. In any event, despite the fact that I wasn’t looking for Spring, it was hard to miss it around here.

I think in the city our activities didn’t change as much throughout the seasons – we were not tied to the earth and weather as much as we are now. There are no zoos to hide out in or daily story times to partake in out here, so when the weather turns from cold and rainy to slightly less cold and slightly less wet, you tend to notice. No more rain gear for outside adventures – although the boots are staying put. 

My parents grow a pretty diverse and large garden, so the Spring means work. Seeds to sow, seeds to plant, greenhouse to clear out, weeding to do…you get the idea. We try to help as much as we can, but basically at this point we are only good for the consumption part of the equation.

Which brings me to my next observation – these kids are suckers for anything they can pick themselves and eat. They eat a fair amount of veggies in the winter, but the greenhouse full of leafy greens reminds me how much more they eat in the summer. I could dip spinach in honey and spread chocolate sauce over carrots and they will not touch them – but fresh carrots that they pick right from the ground? Gone in a second. Chard or kale leaves from the greenhouse? Eaten like candy. I have no idea why this is, but I am taking full advantage. We make daily trips to the greenhouse to munch and graze.

 

 

Here Kitty Kitty

28 Apr

In the city I did not to notice a huge difference in safety, security or activity when dusk turned to night. The street lights popped on allowing us to see almost just as well as during the daylight hours, the number of cars driving by didn’t slow down all that much (until much later in the night) and the daytime noises seemed to carry on save for a few bird tweets who settled into bed somewhere and the honking of the boats pleading for the bridge to open, now all docked and done for the day.

But here, dusk is a very different time. The hundreds of birds and their endless daytime chatter shack up for the night. The frogs take their place with their croaking harmonies. The owls may start to make themselves heard. Sometimes you will hear the yips of the coyotes. But mostly it gets dark. Really dark.

This is no jungle but their are plenty of creatures out there. And my mind has a nasty habit of grossly over-thinking what lingers beyond the illumination of our porch light.

Turns out, a cougar does.

Well, not exactly outside our house – more like on the other side of the property, acres and acres away. But still! Holy shit Batman.

A few weeks ago while doing barn chores, my mom noticed that one of the older llamas (one with an injured leg no less) was lying down way off in the wooded area in the horse pasture. All the animals usually come straight in during this feeding time so the lying llama was a concern. As she predicted, it was dead. Killed and dragged about fifty feet and “hid” under some brush. Classic cougar kill.

So we hooked up a night vision camera on the tree overlooking the general area and collected some photos of the cougar coming back night after night just around dusk to feast on her kill. She ultimately dragged the llama a few hundred yards, under a fence and closer to the wooded area behind said pasture. Cougars are beautiful animals and ones that you rarely see, let alone capture on film. Needless to say, we were all pretty amazed at the images.

While the cougar sighting wasn’t a shock – we know they are out there along with bears – it was a reminder that we no longer live in a predictable urban neighborhood.

We live in the wilderness.

Taking a Breath

7 Feb

 
IMG_2758Today is a gorgeous sunny and crisp winter day. Full of blue sky, chilly breezes and the chatter of robins. On my way out to the barn this morning, an eagle soared above me. I never get tired of seeing eagles. In that moment I felt so privileged to live on this piece of land.

 

 

Farm Life So Far…Winter

28 Jan

IMG_3004

IMG_1027How is farm life so far? Well…it is officially Winter. We have seen snow a handful of times already. While it is indeed as cold and wet as I remember it to be, it is not that dissimilar to the weather in the city…we just have to play in it more here. We don’t have the easy escape of the zoo or aquarium…we are forced to make do with snowsuits and raincoats on a daily basis to play in the creeks and woods. While we do have a library that is great for when you really just don’t want to mess with the hour ordeal of dressing and undressing in outdoor gear, we have yet to use it this season.

IMG_0988The draw of living out here hasn’t waned yet for me. I still find solance in the vast land and diversity of play areas. I still find it easier to manuevor through the day without having to pack everyone up in a car to get a break from our small city lot. I still appreciate the drive to the grocery store and it actually seems shorter now that I have driven it may times over. The dark wet days don’t seem so bad when you have plenty of land to explore under the protection of the trees and it reminds me of my childhood playing in the woods year-round.

IMG_0999While I sometimes wonder if I am missing out on the social aspect of living in the city nearer our friends, I am assured that I am not. We make it in to the city for parties and get-togethers and I find we see our friends just as much as when we lived a short mile apart. The visits seem more intentional and appreciated now that we know we cannot just stop by on any given day.  We spend quite a lot of time up at the ski mountain so that balances our lives out pretty fairly I’d say – plenty of friends there, plenty of snow and fun. (Hence all the mountain photos!)

So, alas, I am happy to say that we have decided to stay…

 

A Routine to Love

10 Dec

IMG_2855“Because rhythmical activity speaks so strongly to children, it is helpful to bring conscious gestures into our household tasks such as folding clothes, sweeping floors, and washing the windows, car or floor. The children will watch, join in or help or simply take it all in as they go about their work of playing. By becoming conscious of our own activities, by regulating our daily lives in a harmonious, rhythmical way – by valuing what we do around our children – we are shaping their will forces, and helping their physical bodies to develop in as healthy a way as possible. In return, our children give us the gift of slowing down, of becoming aware of our movements and our emotions and of appreciating the uniqueness of each moment.” You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin

I believe I have always enjoyed routine. Indeed, when I look back through my life I can see that certain problems developed when a steady rhythmical flow was disturbed. I, of course, could not see that at the time – only through a few hours of counseling and deep thought would that realization come to pass.

DSC_0249I have fought by love for routine since every now and again as I do love me a little spontaneity. I like when people just stop by without making a prearranged date, I like hopping in the car for a impromptu trip across town or succumbing to a sudden urge to buy tickets to South Africa (ok, a bottle of wine may have something to do with that last one). But over the past few years, after two children have made every day a bit unpredictable, I have come to realize that I only like this spontaneity in small doses. To wake up every day without a plan or a project or any inkling about how those darn kids will act or not act is enough to drive a person a little nutty. Enter the frazzled and bored stay-at-home parent that we all read about (or are).

I first starting bringing back some routine with the week’s menu – I have a chalkboard in the kitchen that acts as the week’s menu. There is Monday Pasta, Tuesday Tacos, Wednesday Meat, Thursday Rice and Friday Soup day – every Monday we have pasta, what kind of pasta differs from week to week (soba noodles with kale, smoked salmon fettuccine or a simple veggie pesto) but every Monday we all know we will be eating some sort of noodle. And so on. This makes our meals so much easier to plan on Sunday night when I write out what each day that upcoming week will provide. I find that when I have all the options in the world, I get a little bogged down by all the yummy possibilities that we end up eating breakfast for dinner because I couldn’t make up my mind. I blame Pinterest or the bevy of addicting cookbooks out there. So I just leave the weekends for the lavish meals…which means nine times out of ten I don’t have to cook them since we are often on the go all weekend.

IMG_2821We have also come up with a weekly routine for the kids – inspired by the Waldorf books I have been reading. Mondays are my favorite. We are home from the weekend…no school, no commitments. We usually spend the morning outside exploring around – today we were on a hunt for the items needed this week for our advent garden.

Week Two:

The First Light of Advent,

It is the Light of Stones,

The Light that shines in Crystals, in Seashells

And in Bones

 

The Second Light of Advent,

It is the Light of Plants,

Plants tat reach up to the Sun

And in the Breezes Dance

 

The happy children spend their days

Preparing for the holidays

They’re wrapping up presents to share

It’s Advent Time, so We Prepare

 

The trees and bushes of the forest

Who bend and dance with the wind

Saw (child’s name) (working hard, being kind

To another child, etc) today.

The Trees and bushes are giving these

Children gifts to put on the nature table.

You may choose a gift of a flower, seed, leaf

Or berries to put in our Advent Garden.

IMG_2858Then once Sebastien heads to nap, Maya and I get a few hours to play together, just the two of us. This is time I have recently come to really cherish. Today we made play doh – Maya made a lake and a salmon family out of hers. We played house, danced a few ballet performances – her and me, and made many a mud pie and soup in the outside play kitchen. Three hours later and we were eager to greet the sleepy boy and invite him into our play.

DSC_0243Children are so damn creative and their imagination is wild. It is a blessing to be able to spend this time with them. But it is truly through this new idea of a weekly routine that I have been able to see this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ahhh…the Country

26 Nov

The last 10 days of our Maui vacation was spent visiting with our friends in a small “town” called Kipahulu – forty minutes from Hana – it’s waaaay out there. It was super nice to have so much space for the kids to wander as well as some new playmates.

In our quest to find “our place” – where we would like to settle down for a while – it is essential to travel around and see all sorts of other ways of living. While Maui is not where I would like to spend all year (despite the warmth and the beauty, it just seems odd to wear flip-flops during Thanksgiving), visiting our friends in the country definitely helped me realize that I would love some space…some land. Cities are fantastic and I love to visit them, but now I know for sure that land and fresh air and room to roam is what we need. So there’s that.

It Ain’t What it Used to Be

8 Nov

Vacations. Ok, so I’m still stuck on this thought.

Aside from the sleep depravation that is still haunting us (why does it take a toddler so long to catch up to the damn time difference!?), the days are much better – full of playing on the beach and swimming in the ocean. But it dawned on me yesterday as I was trying to read a book on the beach and my son was pouring sand on top of my head, I may need to amend my idea of vacation.

A vacation is no longer the stuff of late mornings, no work, lazy beach days full of swimming and reading more than a few sentences at a time and quiet, relaxing dinners. They are no longer a welcome break from your normal, everyday life. They are merely your life in a different locale – you still have the 3 year old climbing in your bed at 2 in the morning or the nap schedule to adhere to or the late afternoon meltdowns to sooth. While I may sound tremendously spoiled (as I type in the 85 degree goodness that surrounds me), it is a slightly disappointing realization – you simply cannot escape your exhausting quotidian routine.

Alas, the upside is that on vacation you get to do said routine (once the kids get on the right time schedule, ahem) on the slopes or on the beach or in a foreign land with strange foods and interesting scenery. You are exposing your kids to different walks of life. Shaking things up a bit. In the end it’s all merely for the benefit of the children – I am so not enjoying endless swimming in ocean and pool, eating fish and pineapples daily or that damn sweet tropical air.

This is worth the long flights and the disrupted sleep schedule.

I think.

 

Vacations are Overrated

6 Nov

Say what? Yes. This is what I was thinking 24 hours into our vacation to the Valley Isle.

It wasn’t the 6 hour flight with two children under three that did it…it was relatively mild even though I had to spend a few minutes holed up in the bathroom while my year-and-a-half year old screamed bloody murder. Who could blame him? It was his nap time and here I was trying to coerce him down in an ergo while streaming past totally interesting strangers and TV monitors at every glance. He probably thought I had gone completely nuts – come on lady, you think I am going to fall asleep among all this delicious eye candy? You, the same woman who has consistently put me down in a crib to sleep at roughly the same time for the past year, think I will now magically fall asleep in a freaking backpack? Yes, you have lost your mind and now I am going to lose mine.

So there was that. And there was the utter meltdown of two sleep-deprived souls (and no, I am not talking about me or my husband although I was close) upon arrival of our new happy home. And the 3AM wake-up call from the little guy who, again, looked at me like I was a crazy person when I tried to explain that yes, it is 6AM back home, but here it is still deemed appropriate to be ASLEEP. The kid has an internal clock like no other.

Oh and the creepy creature called the centipede who bit my foot as I tried to quietly sail past a sleeping child to throw a diaper to said awake child in the next room. And yes, is was dark and yes, I thought for sure I was dying. Centipedes are by far the nastiest little buggers you will ever lay eyes on and now I am paranoid about meeting another one. (Disclaimer, in all the many many times I have visited Maui, this was my first bite)

No, it was driving into town at 3 PM the next day to go grocery shopping and getting stuck in traffic, watching the sugar canes sway in the muggy wind and the grey swirls of smoke dance around the blue skies. It was the throngs of people rushing in and out of the stores. It was the $8 pint of milk and $5 avocados (don’t they grow them here?!). It was the 12 minutes it took to drive 2 miles on South Kihei Road.

Living in the country has ruined my sense of paradise.

But then, once you are settled – even though your youngest child is still waking up at 4 AM eager to start the day – and you look around and realize that yes, I am exhausted but I am wearing a sun dress and it is November. I went swimming this morning – at 8 AM and it was hot out. I can see the beach from our lanai (or Nana and Popa’s lanai – thank HEAVENS for vacationing with grandparents) and have eaten guri-guri every afternoon.

Ok, so maybe vacations have some upsides…

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