Monday, October 31, 2011

visit in maryland- levi

Levi loved all the ride-on toys at Doug and Lesli's house. He also learned how to say cat ("Dat! Eeeeahow") while chasing their cats around the house. Here are pictures of Anna, too.

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visit in maryland- anna

After Anna Jo's wedding, my mom and I drove with the kids to my brother Doug's house in Maryland. His wife Lesli is a great photographer and took some photos of the kids playing in their beautiful and fun back yard. We went inside when the rain started coming down hard, but the kids stayed out for a long time.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

anna jo and jeff got married!

On September 4, 2011, Anna Jo and Jeffrey Karp got married! I got to be a bridesmaid and witness all the wedding awesomeness firsthand (and really, it was all awesome, which, knowing those two, I had no misconceptions that it would be otherwise).

The night before the wedding, I got to visit with some of my dearest friends and remembered why I became friends with them in the first place 14 years ago. Jeff's mom created the most magical atmosphere under an outdoor tent with twinkly lights and delicious food and rootbeer floats (!!!!) for dessert.

My mom was nice enough to come out and manage the kids with Sam so I got to spend a luxurious day being pampered and enjoying time with some wonderful women. First, we went to the spa and got all dolled up. (These are a mix of my own pictures and those pilfered from facebook. Thanks to everyone else for documenting the day!)

Then we went back to hotel and got dressed, ate lunch (Panera- which never disappoints) and hopped in the limo (with a driver that looked like Santa) to head to Hiram House Camp where Anna Jo and Jeff first met.

(why yes, I am the palest one here...)

Here's where Jeff got his first glimpse of Anna Jo, and the scene was definitely tender. They are so so in love and one of the best parts of the day was just seeing them look at each other.

We hiked all over the camp. I lost an earring, which of course, Anna Jo's dad found, because, well, he's indispensable like that. The incredible photographer kept us all in good humor with his ninja like skills of scaling anything to get just the right shot. I can't wait to see his photos (although I know Anna Jo is nearly dying with anticipation for them).

After pictures, we went to the club where the wedding was and re-primped after the rain at camp. Then Anna Jo and Jeff signed the ketubah, which was really beautiful to witness and hear the blessings given to them as husband and wife.

Next came the coming down the aisle part. This is probably the only time in my life I'll walk down an aisle at a wedding. :)

Don't you just love Jenifer's dress? She looked amazing in all that flowing silver and was just beaming with happiness the whole day.

Anna was a flower girl and hadn't successfully walked down the aisle in any of the rehearsals, so I was nervous about what would happen at the real event. She made it several feet and I was feeling so hopeful when she made a last minute veer towards my mom. With a little prodding and quite a bit of laughter, I coaxed her down the aisle where Sam was waiting off to the side to get her. The girls weren't allowed to drop flower petals in the hall, so they each had flower cookies in their baskets and Sam told me Anna kept whispering to him through the whole ceremony that she wanted to eat them since she'd made it down the aisle, according to our bargain.

The wedding itself was beautiful and moving. I've never been to a Jewish wedding before, but there were definitely some elements of it that reminded me of some of the wording in an LDS ceremony. The Rabbi spoke about some of the things Anna Jo and Jeff had told him they loved about the other person and listening to him, I thought, "It's all true." We love Anna Jo and Jeff for all the same reasons they love each other, for their kindness and humor and trust.

They look happy :)

I got to visit with lots of old friends from Ohio. Here I'm talking with my cross country coach's wife Laura. It was wonderful to see her, though we missed Terry who had an unexpected heart attack the month before. He had a congenital heart defect that had never been detected and his doctor told him his running had kept him alive all those years. He's been an incredible positive influence for so many young women, myself included and he was missed.

Sam and mom really deserve a prize for dealing with the kids all day, including swimming, short naps in the hotel rooms, all while trying to do homework or get double stick tape to fix a bridesmaid dress.

Anna promptly ate all five of the cookies in her basket. Levi and my mom may have had a bite. She looked adorable, but I tried to keep it under control and only included five pictures of her eating cookies here :)

Anna had fun dancing with the other flower girls and their siblings, while Levi hung out in front of the band. At one point, the drummer gave him a brush to play with and he was in heaven.

Here's the beautiful Sara giving a loving toast, and a beautiful Anna Jo basking in sisterly love with a barely visible Justin a few seats down. What an amazing family!

My favorite part of the reception was sitting next to Christine and just talking and relaxing after a long day. We laughed a lot, cried some, hugged, and watched Anna Jo and Jeff greet all their guests instead of eating :)
Hava Nagila!!

cross country girls

The bride and groom!

Thank you so much Anna Jo for letting me be a part of your day! I had such a wonderful day. I love you both so much! Congratulations!!!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

change (part 3)

Part 1, Part 2, and something a little lighter

As I considered the course things seemed to be taking in our home, it made me wonder about the choice I’d made to become a mother. A few very close friends and family members with whom I’d shared some of my struggles had all talked about taking ownership of the choice I had made to become a mother. If I could accept that it was my choice, that would help me deal with the hard times. Though it made some sense to me, it didn’t really bring me any comfort; it certainly didn’t make mothering any easier. Mostly, it made me question my decision-making ability.

When Sam and I had Anna, I certainly felt like I wanted a child. I had spent 23 years thinking only about myself and I was ready for that to change. I like being physically challenged and pregnancy and child-birth seemed like the ultimate extreme sport. I wanted to fit in with the other women at church where I was hoping to find friends. And most importantly, I wanted to have the intensely spiritual and life-changing experience that everyone told me motherhood was.

Though my desire to have a baby was pretty strong, I did seriously consider what I would do if we didn’t (or couldn’t) have a baby. I could keep working, but my two previous jobs had taught me that the kinds of jobs you get with a bachelors degree in psychology are emotionally and physically draining and don’t pay you very much money to compensate for the stress. I could go back to school, but I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to study or do for a career, and getting a masters degree and then either not liking my work or becoming a parent and not using it both seemed like a waste of money. And what would happen if we moved? At that point, Sam was studying for the GMAT and was thinking about going back to business school as early as the coming year. I was also physically ready. I was healthy and strong, young and energetic. My mom had gone back to school when we were kids. I could post-pone an advanced degree and I might have a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life in 10 or 15 years. To me, the only really sensible option was to have children now, and go back to school later when my children weren’t at home all day long.

Fast-forward three years and I was starting to see some of the flaws in my logic. So much of my reasoning to have a baby had been that the other options didn’t seem right. If I hadn’t known how much I really deep down wanted a baby, reasoning aside, I might have said I had one by default. But in my emotionally messed-up state, it was hard for me to connect with that deep spiritual feeling and all I had left were the reasons, reasons which didn’t stand up to either my feminist intellect or my institutional picture of motherhood. I was in a catch-22 where I was neither equipped for a successful career, nor was I having a fulfilled, transcendent mothering experience.

This was another paradox for which I found Reading Women extremely helpful in explaining. Staal quotes Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique. "When motherhood, a fulfillment held sacred down the ages, is defined as a total way of life, must women themselves deny the world and future open to them? Or does the denial of that world force them to make motherhood a total way of life? The line between mystique and reality dissolves; real women embody the split in the image." Though I don't agree that Friedan's prediction—get a job, hire domestic help, and you will be happier—is always true, her description of "embody[ing] the split in the image” rings true to me. As mothers, we must always make a careful balance between motherhood as a “total way of life” and giving ourselves space for our own identities to grow and develop, toeing the line between the institution and our own personal experience.

One obvious and often successful way of gaining this space is to work (or volunteer) outside the home. Second wave feminism, which essentially began with the publishing of Friedan’s Mystique, was very much concerned with getting women (upper-middle-class, white women that is) into politics and the workplace with equal pay. An unfortunate side-effect of this goal was the resulting cultural pressure on women to not only be the primary caregiver at home, but also be a primary breadwinner out of it, at the same time. Women were told that in order to prove they were valuable, they had to get a job. As such, we started telling girls, “you can be anything you want” with the cultural-expectation-tagline of “as long as you still take care of the kids.”(I won’t get too sidetracked here by spelling out all the complexity that has arisen around men’s roles in the past 50 years, but I do feel the need to acknowledge it here….Duly acknowledged, let’s move on.)

Staal recounts an exchange between Judith Warner, and Cecile Berry at a panel discussion at Barnard called, "Rewriting Motherhood:"
"'Well, I don't know if we should tell our daughters they have limitless possibilities,’ said Berry. ‘If you want to include a meaningful experience with motherhood in your lives, I don't know if that's possible.'"
(Here Warner's shocked and tries to recover),"'...I think if we can just give girls the ability to remain true to themselves, then that sort of takes care of part of the problem.'
'Yeah, it does break down to what kind of career you want to have,' agreed Berry, 'but that's exactly why I don't want to tell girls, "you have limitless options." I don't know if it's possible to really be a mother who experiences motherhood and at the same time have a dynamic, high-profile career.'"

I wish I could remember what Berry’s career was to get her on the panel, I do remember she gave it up to stay home with her children. What she’s saying here—to a very baffled Judith Warner—is that we need to give realistic messages to our daughters. Berry's pragmatism is a breath of fresh air to me. Yes, girls can do anything, but they need to understand that their experiences working in or out of them home will be changed by whether they devote all their time to one of those pursuits or if pursue career and motherhood at the same time. As with any decision, there are trade-offs, but we should at least try to prepare them for “embody[ing] the split in the image.”

In an ideal world, we’d all just stop judging each other, and ourselves, and we’d support our friends and sisters and daughters in whatever choices they deemed best. That’s what I really wished for as I thought, “What kind of mothering experience do I want to have? What kind of experience do I want for my children? Would not being a stay-at-home parent allow me to enjoy more the fewer mothering experiences I would have, or would it produce more guilt and more anxiety?”

Again, Staal helped me think about this. She writes, “To compare work and motherhood in terms of satisfaction and fulfillment is a similarly specious endeavor, for they are plainly not the same kind of experience. Seeing my name in print cannot possibly be compared with seeing my daughter's dance performance at school—not because one is necessarily better or more important, but because they are so very different and serve such different needs. Any mother knows this, even if some media pundits would seem stubbornly determined not to acknowledge this crucial distinction with their relentless coverage of the Mommy Wars.
"...If Friedan's specter was the 1950's "happy housewife" pictured in glossy magazine advertisements, ours is surely the '80's ‘supermom,’ now lying crumpled on the floor from too much cultural kryptonite. And in her wake enters a decidedly less glamorous antihero: the mother who is always reaching to make ends meet, always harried, always frazzled, and always—always—always—coming up a little short.”

As I read that, I knew I was haunted by that specter. Even without a job, I was feeling harried and frazzled. I thought about Julie Beck’s vision of a “mother who knows.” While some of the wording in that talk irks me, I agree with its spirit, and Sister Beck’s assertion that, “Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.”

I decided I really did want to be at home with my children. Right now, I don’t want to be anywhere else. I decided I was completely willing to make that sacrifice, but I knew I must find a way to be at peace while doing it, or it would be painful for both me and my family. The vision, the idea, the hope of that peace was what gave me strength to do what I did next.

halloween sneak peek

When I asked Anna, sometime in August, what she wanted to be for Halloween, I didn't really expect any answer at all, but she said, "I want to be a ballerina fairy princess with an orange tutu and a crown with a sunshine on it." Mom made this happen with a little tweaking (we couldn't find orange spandex for the leotard). We had our Joy School Halloween party on Thursday. The leotard Mom made came the night before, so this was the first time Anna had on the whole costume. She was crazy excited. This is after the party, so she was a little pictured out. Thanks Mom!

(Levi got in the shot at the last second, but this was the best, face-on, not blurry shot we got of the whole costume)

I slipped ribbons under Anna's feet inside her sparkly shoes so she could have ribbons that tied around her legs like real ballerinas, and there's a pink and orange tutu under her "flower fairy" skirt. There's a book called Lili at the ballet written by an ex-ballerina with beautiful illustrations of children dancing. Anna learned that ballerinas balance at the barre from that book. Lili gets to be the flower fairy at the end of the book, so she was glad Grandma included a flower skirt that she could wear with her ballerina tutu.

This is a good shot of her "princess hair." Those little ringlets in the front are all natural, no curling iron needed.