Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seahawks Super Bowl Soirée...Sponsored by Crock Pot

Go Seahawks!

Thanks, Auntie, for Elsa's spirited outfit!
Since my Chiefs self-destructed in the first round of the play-offs, I wholeheartedly threw my support behind the Seahawks. Easy to do because a) being from Seattle, Jon is a huge Seahawks fan, and b) when given the chance, I will always cheer against the Broncos.

Once Seattle officially made it to the Super Bowl, we decided to host a party. We optimistically thought it would also be a good opportunity to show off the new house. It was actually good motivation to get some work done, resulting in several late nights spent painting and organizing. Poor Jon was a zombie at work all week...but that was probably due to the fact that since I bought a different type of coffee (the grocery store was out of his favorite), he inadvertently drank decaf for days.

Miraculously, when it was time for the big game, we were ready. We certainly didn't have all the painting or projects done, but the house was (mostly) clean and chili was made. Due to the number of people we were expecting, we made a triple batch, prompting the need for an extra crock pot. Add in the spinach dip (served with blue chips to keep with the blue-green theme, of course) I made in a different crock pot, we had three outlets occupied.

Guests bearing delicious food started arriving as kick-off approached, and it quickly became apparent that we would need an extension cord. All told, we had six crock pots going, full of all that yummy stuff you only get to eat at parties. Needless to say, no one left hungry.

We were delighted to discover that everyone fit in our living room, including our giant rented TV. It was nice to not have to squint to see the score; I'm glad we'll still have it through the Olympics. We had a lovely time surrounded by friends, made all the sweeter by the outcome of the game. Super Bowl Sunday was a rousing success!

Airplane Philosophy*

If traveling with someone who needs assistance, please secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.

I had always thought this part of the airline safety instructions was sort of selfish. Why wouldn't you help someone else first?

Then I became a parent, and it all became crystal clear. If I'm not taking care of myself, I can't possibly take care of Elsa. This probably seems obvious to anyone who is a parent, but it was a revelation to me, the same way the "quarterback slide" finally makes sense.

I used to admonish quarterbacks as being wusses for sliding instead of taking a hit. But really, they would be doing their team a disservice by being knocked out a game for an extra couple of yards. Others depend on them to lead, so if they get injured, they are hurting the entire team. So really, sliding to avoid getting hit instead of going for a first down is an unselfish act.

The same can be said for mothers. We laugh at the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," but it's true. Those moments spent going for a jog, having lunch with a friend, or even writing a blog post are good for my soul and make me a better mother because I then have the energy to focus on Elsa rather than thinking of all the other "things" I have (or admittedly want) to be doing. Plus, I like to think that I'm setting a good example for my daughter of how to lead a balanced life.

Lest you think I have it all together, I most certainly do not. Even though Elsa is nearly nine months old, I still forget that I cannot just add "taking care of a baby" to my old life and routine. "Taking care of a baby" has changed my life...for the better, yes, but not for the easier. I still don't understand how people can manage to do so many things; I must be doing something wrong because there are days that I don't even pretend like I'm going to take a shower, let alone make dinner from scratch, create something crafty, or clean the bathroom.

This parenting thing is hard. One of the things that makes it hard is that there is no time off. No weekends or summer vacations to look forward to, no opportunities to catch up on sleep or laundry. While I am still thankful to be able to stay home with Elsa most of the time (I am equally grateful to still be able to teach a class or two), I totally get the need to work outside the home. Sometimes I really just want to hide out in an office and alphabetize things...because that's what people in offices do, I'm sure.

I never realized how protective I was of my own time before I had to share it. Service to others has always been an important part of my life, but I now recognize that it was mostly important when it was also convenient. Being on call 24 hours a day is not always convenient...which truly makes it service, I think.

I am not surprised to learn that having children does not increase--and in fact, sometimes decreases--people's happiness. Of course not. But what all those studies fail to note is that it does increase fulfillment. I don't always enjoy teaching, but it does fulfill me. I think that's how it is with a calling. And if parenthood isn't a calling, I don't know what is.    

*Clearly, I am not the first person to have this epiphany. Thanks to Linda Hoffman at for the concept of "airplane philosophy."

Home Sweet Home

As much as we loved living in Downtown Memphis, it was time to move on. Our two-year adventure in this southern city quickly morphed into three, and when Jon found a new job (which is sort of the old job), we decided to stay a bit longer. We realized that with Baby Girl, we needed some more space, so we began house hunting in the fall.

For the first time, we didn't have a deadline for finding housing, which was both good and bad. Good because we weren't rushed; bad because we kept looking...and looking...and looking. Thank goodness for a wonderful real estate agent because she indulged all this looking and showed us lots of places, not minding when we would take a break for a couple weeks here and there.

Despite all this looking, the house we finally made an offer on was the very first house we saw. At the time, it was unremarkable, but after seeing so many other places, we kept coming back. Honestly, it didn't show very well, with pink and purple sponge paint on the living room walls and a giant stuffed white tiger in one of the bedrooms, but once we got past all the cosmetic things, we realized that it had the space and location we didn't know we wanted.

We're no longer located on historic Main Street with restaurants and attractions within walking distance. No more trolley clanging by or river view from the roof. We will definitely miss that. But our lives have changed, so the park directly across the street of the new house has a lot of appeal. We are one block from a coffee shop, two blocks from a brewery, and three from our favorite BBQ place in town, so there's a lot going on around here. And Jon enjoys the challenge of commuting to work by bicycle. It's just a little unfortunate that this adventure began during one of the coldest winters Memphis has had in a while.

So, we've signed our life away, and with the help of friends, moved everything the four miles across town. Moving day was a long one, but now the real work begins with organizing and personalizing our new space. Through this process, we've learned that moving with a baby is tough--next time, we're not moving until Elsa is old enough to help out. Projects take longer than we want them to, with many not starting until after bedtime. Projects also seem to multiply; I feel a little bit like we're living in a less dramatic version of The Money Pit. Windows and paint and a roof, oh my! Ah, the joys of home ownership.

That said, we're enjoying it so far, and are extending an invitation to any and all visitors. Come stay at our house! It's a very, very, very fine house.

Google Earth image of our house (unfortunately the little tree on the left is no longer there)

Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me

Jon and I are nerds. This is not a new revelation.

However, this was confirmed when we got geekishly excited over the announcement that "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" the NPR news quiz was coming to town. For the uninitiated, "Wait, Wait" is a current events quiz show that airs weekly on public radio. We stumbled upon it several years ago and have been hooked ever since. It's hard to explain the appeal, but rest assured that if you listen to it, you will love it, too.

The show is usually taped in Chicago, and we've actually discussed going to the Windy City for a broadcast. The closest we came to seeing it live was watching a simulcast at a local movie theater this spring. (In fact, it aired the night before Elsa's due date, so we weren't sure if we'd get to see it. I thought for sure that if I had gone into labor during the taping that Carl Kasell would have recorded our birth announcement.)

It turns out we didn't have to go to Chicago after all because "Wait, Wait" came to us. The announcement was made on our local public radio affiliate, and we were buying tickets within the week. Merry Christmas to us!

The stars aligned in that the taping was right down the street at the Orpheum theater and the night before we left for Christmas vacation. Some friends came over to watch Elsa (who was beyond fussy--bad parents that we are, we left anyway), and off we went.

Ready for the show

I will proudly wave my nerd banner when I proclaim how cool it was, especially to hear all of the bonus material that gets edited out. Jon was not exaggerating when he said it was definitely a bucket list item for him, for both of us. Follow this link to listen to segments of the show: If you listen closely, you'll probably hear us laugh. 

But the story doesn't end there. Early the next morning, in line at the airport, I noticed that one of our fellow passengers at the ticket counter was THE Carl Kasell, longtime NPR newsman and current score keeper for "Wait, Wait." Jon and I completely geeked out, introducing ourselves and gushing about how much we love the show. I think Carl was a bit taken aback, but we viewed it as an excellent omen for our day of travel.

Home for the Holidays

Elsa thoroughly enjoyed her first holiday season...not that she had any clue what was going on.

The season between Thanksgiving and New Years is cause for a big celebration in our household, as well as cause for lots of travel. We wouldn't have it any other way, though. This year, however, was the first year that we would be unable to visit both sides of the family for Christmas. Between a new baby and a new job, we just couldn't spend two weeks on the road. We did make the best of the time we had and still managed to see as many people as possible.

Fortunately, we were able to go to Kansas City for Thanksgiving as usual, so even though we weren't able to go back for Christmas, we did kick off the holiday season in the Midwest. Elsa had a great time playing with/observing her cousins, and we're pretty sure she picked up a few tricks from them because when we got back, she was doing all kinds of things she hadn't before, such as standing (supported) for up to ten minutes at a time and sitting on her own. She also mostly enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner, although to be fair, mashed potatoes are much better covered in gravy. Maybe next year, Baby.

Our little turkey

Our next big holiday adventure was a few short weeks later when we boarded a plane for Elsa's first trip to Seattle. Jon had taken great care to select a flight plan that would minimize lay-over time and get us to the Northwest as quickly as possible. Mother Nature wreaked havoc on those plans when, the night before we were set to leave, we received a message that our flight had been cancelled. Luckily we were rebooked in a few hours, but that meant that we had a four-hour lay-over, delaying our arrival considerably.

Elsa did pretty well on the flight, although this was a much longer trip than her first flight, so she didn't sleep as much as we'd hoped. Honestly, though, if she had not been our baby, I don't know that we would have noticed her presence. At least, I hope that's how our fellow passengers felt.

Once we arrived in Washington, it was a flurry of activity with Christmas celebration after Christmas celebration. Elsa met lots of relatives, and we all got to meet our newest niece born the week prior. Our nephews have grown so much since the last time we saw them; it will only be a matter of time before Elsa is chasing after them, too. It was nice to be back, but we quickly realized one thing we hadn't missed: all the driving. We felt as though we spent a considerable amount of time in the rental car; good thing Elsa falls asleep quickly in her car seat.

Apparently Elsa had been a good girl in the first few months of her life because on Christmas morning, she woke up to discover that Santa had visited Grandpa and Grandma's house. Of course, seeing as how Elsa didn't really know who Santa was--other than a scary guy with a beard--I'm pretty sure her stocking was more for Jon and me. Elsa was pretty excited by her loot, though, especially since Santa introduced her to that perennial favorite baby treat known as puffs.

Yay for Christmas!
Elsa received many lovely gifts from her family, and we are all so grateful. However, the best part of the holidays was spending time with family (and friends as close as family) in the Midwest and Northwest, sharing the best gift we've ever received. We're already looking forward to Elsa's increasing joy and wonder during the holiday season in years to come.