Month: August 2017

The Path of Totality

Just when you think you’ve lived 33 years and seen just about all nature had to offer on God’s green earth, a solar eclipse comes crashing through your city.

Being in the path of totality meant that we heard about this phenomenon for months in advance, had a run on glasses (mostly due to Amazon’s negligence) and then a last minute glut of them (loved that people were handing them out for free just so everyone in our great city could enjoy this), school cancelled (traffic issues since the eclipse was near the time of dismissal), and reports of 300,000+ extra visitors to our already at capacity city.

It was magical.

I enjoy hype anyway.  And I love when something completely stops us in the middle of a random work day and causes the whole city to look together at the sky.  How often do we actually take note of the sun anyway?  Not very often unless it is causing us distress by not shining enough or we feel too much heat from it. Although, one could argue it was actually the even less-appreciated moon that stole the show?  Either way, nature commanded our attention for at least two minutes on this otherwise average Monday afternoon.

About two hours before the 1:27pm CST total eclipse, the moon began its descent upon the sun.  It took about an hour for that effect to be visible to us.  But the afternoon light began slowly growing dimmer and I could not shake the eerie feeling from it.  It was as if the sun was making its last glow before setting, but the light was not as soft as a normal sunset.  Add to that it was in the middle of the afternoon, typically the brightest part of the day.  My internal clock did not match what my external one was saying.  The incongruence made me feel dizzy.

Right around 1:00pm, we went outside to witness the totality of the eclipse in person. MG’s school had spent all of Friday explaining the science behind the phenomenon and what to expect.  I was thankful that I didn’t have to personally undertake that and that Bea picked up a lot of it from hearing MG retell it over and over.

Under the careful mantle of our eclipse glasses, we gazed up at the sky, instantly awed by the orange sun, looking more like a moon in its crescent shape, about halfway covered.  I didn’t know what to expect from the special glasses but they literally block out all of your vision save for extremely bright lights, which appear orange.  When we had them on, we could only see one thing, the object of our affection, the sun.

We didn’t spend our entire time staring at the sun though.  We did it in little bursts, the overtaking of it more noticeable and magical as a few minutes passed in between each view.  And watching the light change around us was almost just as spectacular.  At that point, it looked like there was an Instagram filter on us.  Everyone was a little more grey and blue and the contrast was high.  One neighbor, fully prepared for this moment, passed out Eclipse gum to each of us and later Moon Pies, Sunburst, and Sun Kist raisins.

What must it have been like to witness this unexpectedly?  We can only imagine.  Definitely some talk about the end of the world and what that might truly be like.

Ten minutes before totality and the buzz began picking up.  Our neighbors streamed out of their houses and we quickly decided the best angle of viewing: one with a view of the sun AND the horizon (difficult to do in the mountains).  It was fun to be with these people.  Most we have met and know fairly well, some we have not yet.  But after witnessing history together, we surely feel a little more bonded.

We continued to switch between our glasses and looking around us.  The shadows on the ground began moving rapidly and rippling, almost like waves in the ocean.  In the last few minutes, the darkness set in quickly and we oohed and ahhed and then cheered as we, together, watched the final sliver of the moon overcome the sun.

This was the moment we had all been prepped for and we ripped off our glasses and stared at the magnificence of the scene before us.  There was a beautiful silver ring around the sun, glowing and flaring in both emerald green and eggplant purple.  It was a sight to behold.

Though I like to document things, almost obsessively, it was something I did not have the means to adequately photograph, the light from the sun only flaring up in my camera and not letting me accurately capture.  It’s rare these days that we are only left with a mental image of something we witness.  But this time, that is all I have. Even the professional photographs I’ve seen of the event don’t accurately capture the beauty of what I saw. I feel a little tension about that.  Afraid that I will forget, or somehow change the image in time against my will.  But that is how it is today in 2017 and how it has always been for every eclipse prior.

We had this miracle in front of us for two minutes but it felt like seconds.  Look up at the sky, look around you at the darkness.  The middle of the afternoon.  The birds suddenly cawing and diving in the sky. The streetlights flickering on.  The crickets striking up their tune. The animals, what are they thinking of all of this?  The girls exclaiming over every little thing. They really got it!  The horizon still holding on to its milky orange glow.

I kept looking up at the moon/sun and down at the girls and then at my surroundings.  I didn’t want to miss a thing.  Much like every good thing, it went too fast.

We were all caught a little off guard when suddenly the sun flared orange again and the moon was already moving out of the way.  It was time to put our glasses back on and watch it reverse.

For about an hour longer, the light slowly notched up but it took about that long to feel “normal” again.

August 21, 2017.

It felt nice to witness history with my family and neighbors.  And I loved replaying my videos over and over as well as reading about other people’s experiences.  That is something they did not have during the last total eclipse: a way to share your experience at large.  I think ahead to the next one coming near us in 7 years.  Our oldest daughter will double her age and our youngest will be about her age now.  What else will we have then that we don’t now? I can only hope that we, as a nation, recognize the magnificence of that event then, much like we did today.  For if not, surely it really will be the end of the world.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Ps 8:3,4

 

Time Prevails

I often marvel at the differences in my little three.  As I said in a recent post, I have become enraptured by the Enneagram, yet another personality study of the many I have perused throughout the years.  These things fascinate me.

Bea’s personality is much more prevalent, or dare I admit–I am much more attuned to it, when she becomes my eldest, and only talker, after dropping off her sister at school for 5 days a week, 7 hours a day.

She never went through a strong “why” phase like MG did, peppering the ubiquitous question at the end of every answer (much to my chagrin).  But I finally recognized, just this week, week two of school, week two of having significant time with her to myself, that she asks probably 2-3 questions per minute when we are together.  This is not an exaggeration.  She may not need to know why simply, but she needs to know who created the grass, do I remember that one time at the schoolhouse, and can she have a snack when we get home?. There is so much she needs to know.

I learned a term this week called transactional memory which means storing information in other people’s heads.  Apparently married couples and people who live together for long periods of time do this harmoniously.  For example, I’m not great with directions but N has a good handle on that for both of us, consequently he is our designated driver (no pun intended).  I am better at remembering dates, so I am often prompting him to pick up that birthday card or call so-in-so on their anniversary, and he relies on me to do so.  We depend on each other to store information for ourselves and then call on that person to produce it when we most need it.

I think as my girls grow, learn to talk, and then start processing information in the world, we also enter into this type of relationship.  Right now, it feels more like there is a leech on my brain, taking out all of the non-important information, but one can only hope that the tables will eventually turn as I pour so much into her.  This week, MG began talking about the American flag and its 13 stripes and what they stand for.  I, shamefully, did not remember that it had 13 stripes, but as soon as she said it, that little tidbit that left my brain, probably about 300,000 questions ago, was jogged back into short-term memory.  She is starting to outsmart me, and I am okay with that.

I reinstated “quiet time” now that we are back in the school year routine.  It’s an egg timer set for an hour and a chosen box specifically for that time, always during Sibby’s afternoon nap.  Almost every time, Bea picks the box of Littlest Pet Shop (the old school ones) or Calico Critters.  She still hasn’t outgrown her love for animals or miniatures.

At the end of the hour, she usually comes to find me, almost always in my office, squirreled away on a project before Sibby wakes up.  Bea helps herself to my “art cabinet” and the contents of the trashcan (usually scraps of fabric and paper that AREN’T off-limits).  She takes her scissors and cuts the paper into a hundred pieces of varying sizes and then scribbles some colorful words on them.  “Tickets”, she calls them.  And I often hear her mumble to herself about how fun this is to work on her little project while I work on mine.

Just yesterday, Timehop pulled up an old video from its vault for my viewing pleasure.  It was Bea, consequently the exact same age as Sibby now, sitting on the hardwood floor, paper down, marker open and scribbling.  I had written in the caption something about how what dolls were to MG at that age, art supplies were to Bea.  As it turned out, it was actually prophetic.

Last night, I watched Sibby meticulously open a silver cylinder about the size and shape of a tube of lipstick and then attempt to put the cap back on.  Her fingers are chubby and not finely tuned yet.  And the tube top takes exact precision to push it on correctly. It took about 6 tries to get the cap on each time and one try to get it off.  I was beguiled by her patience and consistent effort, two things I sorely lack, especially in frustration.  As she begins to emerge into more of a toddler and less of a baby, I am constantly wondering how much of her future self we are actually seeing.

I’ve gotten a little taste of the “next life”, the life of a school-age mom, as I have termed it, though a confusing term to others.  With Bea in school 6 hours a day, 2 times a week and Sib taking a good three hour nap on those days (and actually asking zero questions prior to these silent golden hours), I’ve got considerably more time to myself than I’ve had in a while.  Add to this, my mom and sister have been pitching in to give me a few more hours where they take the two littlest until nap time and suddenly my hours of silence, contemplation, and purpose driven tasks have increased exponentially.

I have enjoyed them tremendously (and as you can see for yourself, started blogging again).  I’ve mentioned before that I spend a lot of time day dreaming, as of late, what my time will look like when all three are in school.  I do not like going into big transitions without my “perfect plan” in place, so it is partial preparation to (hopefully) prevent failure, and partial job research detail.

While I don’t see myself going back into full time work, as of yet, I do get excited about being a financial contributor to the family again and the freedom that will buy for myself.  Even now, when I get a little bit of babysitting money or birthday money, I notice the excitement that comes with the power to buy whatever I want.

But I also don’t want to spend the next 5+ years, wistfully longing for the next thing (which is so my personality).

I’ve often wondered why we can’t have the best of both worlds at the same time.  The old ladies at the gym and the grocery store wish for the same thing I do.  That we both had more time.  They more time to enjoy the years that “went by too fast” and me more time to cross off my to-do list and to write a blog post without a hundred questions disconnecting the lobes of my brain.  Rather than being the boy with the golden yarn, I’ve often wondered why we can’t live our lives at different intervals but the same time.  A symbiotic relationship of the two distinct parts of our lives.

So, for example, five days a week nothing would change, but then two days a week, I would live my life at the end of my days and enjoy the freedoms that would come from having little to no responsibility.  Because the only thing that makes us appreciate rest is work, as is the reverse true.

Of course this is all hyperbole, and perhaps fodder for a short story I will write the girls one day. (?)

I guess the moral of the story being that time prevails.

-smk

Revive Us Again

School is back in session. Summer went out with tacit complacency, much like it always seems to do, with pizza and swimming and early bedtimes.  And as much as I hate someone else, or in this case something else, dictating my time, I have found, at least in this first week, that I have enjoyed having a routine again.

MG took right to her classroom, much like I thought she would. This year there was less trepidation from both of us.  And I am reminded of how starting kindergarten in a new state is not for the faint of heart.

This time last year, I was an emotional wreck (I think that’s actually a very accurate description), not only from the new start of school and for having a school-aged child for the first time, but also the impending move and stress of trying to sell our Indiana house. Not to mention, living away from N and also caring for an infant.

Last year I felt like a foreigner forging my way independently.  Of course N was there for our family but he also had the toll of starting over in a new job.  This year I was reminded I was not alone in all of this and I think that has made some difference in my emotional state too.

This year, I was greeted by familiar faces and felt like we are growing on the good foundation that was set last year.  Much less traumatic, much more peaceful.

That being said, the school year always feels daunting in August.  We have nine more months of this.  We have two daylight savings; we have Christmas, fall, and spring breaks; we have 100 days of school; we have PTA fundraisers and school spirit events.  It’s a lot to think about. It’s a lot of items to cross off before the lazy days of summer beckon us again.

In the midst of this, Bea started pre-k this week too.  She was so excited, as was I for her. Finally her chance to have something all for herself. She is always reaching to attain the same status of her sister. Often times that works in her favor, like learning how to swim two years earlier and other milestones.

No tears were shed for her.  Not when she is just so eager.

There is a church that is next to N’s school and they have chronically shown up for us.  When we moved into our house, they showed up with a team of volunteers to move in boxes and furniture, as well as food for everyone to eat.  On big days at school, they man the parking lot,  directing traffic, handing out water bottles on the hot days, and Starbucks coffee to parents.

Waking up at 5:50am to run and shower before getting three babies fed and dressed and packed up for the day makes me weary.  But the volunteers at this church, often two generations ahead of me, smiling and serving, give me a little touch of fire from above, so to speak, to rekindle me along my way.

The school year routine has been revived, though my clumsy self always feels a few beats behind.  But far better than a year ago, and with the notion of just a little leaning in and it could all be downhill from here.

-smk

 

Summer part 2

It was just a few shorts weeks ago, I shared this post, burgeoning with anticipation on the warmth of summer’s back, all that it was going to bring me.  Now here we are, just a week before school starts and I’m finally able to put into words what this summer has meant to me.

The highlights include: a family beach trip, both big girls learning how to swim, a milestone first lost tooth, trips to the “toy store” to spend saved up money, new haircuts for the girls, three trips to Indiana to visit friends and family, a celebratory date for 11 years of marriage, and squeezing all the memory making into the everyday as possible.  Summer is my favorite.

As I am on the cusp of exiting it, I have to say, I feel satisfied with the length.  I feel as though we packed as much in as we could, and though all good things must come to an end, I feel refreshed and ready to hit the school year head on.  The girls are jointly excited for their respective schools to start (MG because she is dying to see her friends and Bea because she gets to “go to school” this year (just pre-school, but still exciting!).  I have been slack on buying school supplies this year but I have a special date planned this weekend to check the final things off our list.

While the girls have been doing all this growing up, Sib is doing her best to catch up.  While still not walking, she is getting closer each day.  She is practicing by standing, often, and quite proud of herself when she does.  She finally has enough hair, that is as white and silken as corn tassels, to gather in to a little ponytail atop her head, which makes her look a few inches taller and a little less masculine to strangers :).

She is also talking quite a bit to us, though we act like we understand what she’s saying, it is all nonsense.  Being the baby, she feels she is privileged to anything we possess.  My phone is both mine and hers.  If I am sitting on the couch, she must be with me.  A snack or a drink from the fridge must be either hidden from her sight or openly shared.  There are no two ways about it.

As I said in my last post, I have greatly decreased my sewing output this summer and have taken up scrapbooking until I get caught up.  I don’t like switching back and forth between hobbies, so once I got back on the scrapbooking roll,  I have been enjoying it. I am currently working on our 2016 scrapbook, which is about a year behind where I normally like to be on them, but I forgave myself for that a long time ago.

I also mentioned in my last post that writing is therapeutic for me and have found it to be very insightful to write now about the craziness of last summer, a year later when the dust has all settled and everything is as it should be.

Along those lines, I was introduced to the Enneagram of Personality, which I thought would be another personality quiz, of which it seems, I have taken a million in my lifetime. But I took the quiz and got a 4 and then became turned onto The Road Back to You podcast and now have been obsessing over it.  It’s been helpful because N took the quiz too and it has been fueling a lot of our conversations lately.  The podcast has been my background noise while I work on the scrapbook, so I listen and little, and type a little, and contemplate my past and my future in one setting.

I feel ready to transition back into the routine of school, but I do very much dread August. With our educational backgrounds, it has always been a bit of a grind with late nights and early mornings, and extra stress from new routines and changes.  Sometimes I find myself thinking of the fable of the boy with the golden yarn.  He was given a ball of yarn and instructed that he could pull the string to make time pass more quickly.  A small tug would pass a small amount of time and a large tug, a greater amount of time.  Every August, I almost wish I could pull that string and wind up at the end of the month, after the transition has been successfully made and the kinks worked out of the system.

But we all know how that story ends.  The little boy gets to the end of his life and realizes that he let all of the good, real moments slip away in anticipation of getting to the next thing more easily.

So that’s where I find myself today.  My present state. And coupled up with my past, the good memories and the redeemed ones, and the notions of my future, I want to enjoy every second of it.

-smk

Blog Author

Sometimes this place, this address of sweetmamak.com, feels less and less homey.  As far as hobbies go, it is not a very enlightening one.  There is a lot of effort with little reward, at least in the moment.  The reaping being best enjoyed when the girls are older and my memories are faded.  But for now, each post requires a precise tax of two naptimes (one to write, one to edit, and even then, I often hit publish after reading it for a total of 12 times, only to read it again in the different font of the blog and still catch mistakes.  All the while knowing, with the shame visible on my cheeks, that my email only readers will never see the post-publish edits I make).

Two naptimes feel heavy these days, especially during the school year, but hopefully less in the summer. As summer has been underway now for two weeks, my pet projects have begun, first with editing Sibby’s baby book, and secondly with quadruply backing up my photos (yes, I’m kind of a nut about this). With these abounding, there has been a lot less time for sewing. That’s okay because I hit a dry spell for a while (and sometimes question if the girls really even need another outfit??) but just yesterday purchased a new pattern so that has me dreaming up some new plans and has the creative juices flowing again.

The discouragement comes often, and heavy at times.  I just read an Instagram post yesterday that questioned if anyone reads blogs anymore.  The overwhelming response was “no”.   And I sadly, had to agree.  There are only two blogs (that regularly post, I’m not talking about my friends’ blogs which I lick up like a thirsty dog to an ice cream bowl whenever they post something) that I regularly read.  There’s just not time anymore.  It takes too long to jump through the links.  It seems that immediacy and brevity has replaced leisure reading and storytelling.

But storytelling is my niche, and frankly something that I often aspire at which to be better (I even wrote that sentence awkwardly to avoid the hanging preposition).  I confess I am not good at small talk (and being very introverted), often dread it.  When I am headed to an event that will require it, I spend time mulling over stories I can tell and how best to deliver them.  A benefit to being the new girl in town means I get to go to a lot of events where there are no overlapping acquaintances and therefore have many chances to hone my stories over several tries to get the punchline just right.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the slow of the blog.  With how I am never happy with a post if I publish it the same hour that I write it (I like to give it at least 24 hours to marinate before I edit and ultimately post it). With how I often think up stories to tell while I’m running, or driving, or nursing (the only times where I seem to have headspace these days).  With how bad Siri is at translating my voice to notes during these times.  With how my daily readership has decreased with the popularity arc of Instagram (but my email readership has likewise gone up).

All that being said, I am still here.  Still thinking up stories to tell you.  Though, I confess my writing has slowed considerably this summer, if not the past two years.  I hope this post to be my entrance back into it, now that my scrapbooking has almost come to a satisfied completion and I am not itching to jump right back into sewing.  I also wrote the beginning of this post almost 6 weeks ago and then forgot about it.  But I somewhat purposely forgot about it because I question if I haven’t written this same “apology” or “is anyone out there that still cares?” post many times and quite frequently in the past two years.  I believe I have but 6 weeks later, I still find a lot of truth in the words, so I decided to pull the trigger.  Humor me for now.  As I hit the publish button, I’m on my way to create some new content coming your way soon.

-smk