Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Glorious Golden State

The rest of the past week confirmed in our hearts just a little bit more how much we want to live in CA some day. The green rolling hills with wildflowers galore, the outdoor living that is year-round, the peacefulness of the ocean, Eucalyptus and Redwood groves and countryside juxtaposed with the stimulation of the cities- it was a great week. We can't wait to go back in December, and see Yosemite in the winter again, this time with our babe (who will have to borrow snow gear, we're not buying it in hot TX!) My mom came over on my birthday and we spent hours at the nation's best aquarium at Monterey Bay. If you don't have the funds to fly to the Caribbean or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; seriously, this is a great alternative. It reminded me of fieldtrips I took there in grade school, petting the Rays, starfish, and so forth. Such a neat, interactive place for kids to be engaged. We'll definitely bring Claire there some day.

Tuesday I rented a bike (only $8/24 hours- military hookup!) and rode along the waters' edge with countless other runners/walkers/cyclists. There are a lot of hard-core athletes in the area (makes sense, it is gorgeous), but at 30 weeks preggo, trust me, I was content just beach-cruising my way down the trail:) I also bought Claire a journal, that we have started writing in, and will give to her at some point. (high school graduation? marriage? who knows) Wednesday I walked on Carmel's beach again and went shopping- though let's be honest, there's no way we are crazy enough, nor could we afford a $137 sweater for a newborn, that she would wear once, then grow out of. Carmel babies are in a league above us, that's for sure! But it was fun to look. Thursday I got to see my brother for the first time in 2 years, that was cool. His flight home from Australia aligned perfectly with our week in CA, fortuitous, since he's about to head to Germany for their season. He has not really lived in America for a while now, so it was fun to see him. I hope he will be able to be in Claire's life some day. Friday we said goodbye to the central coast and headed up to the Flory's house in the Bay Area, to meet their new babe, Ingrid, 10 weeks. She's amazing. We hope she and Claire can be besties some day!! Our time there was much too short, as we zoomed off to the San Francisco airport Saturday morn. We tried to get bumped again, to stay another day, but no such luck. Bay Area, we will be back!! Just you wait!!

After 3 nights in our own bed, lots of snuggling with Puggy, and a couple loads of laundry, not even unpacking entirely, we are now in the CC airport, ready to board our next flight to Seattle. Last trip we take before little c is born. Pray that my legs don't swell like they did on Saturday! That was creepy, never happened before! I will post photos soon, but wheels up in 20 minutes!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SuperNanny and other Resources- HELP US, PARENTS!

We have no idea how to be good parents. Like zero. We think we will be good parents, but really, we have no experience in this realm. Foreign territory. Babysitting here and there, nannying in college for good, disciplined, older kids is NOT the same as the journey we are about to embark on in 2 months with baby Claire. This has never really alarmed me until the past 3 hours when we both wanted to strangle the little maniac sitting (un)fortunately RIGHT BEHIND us on the plane to TX. I'm not just talking about kicks in the back, here, folks. From the moment we got on the plane, when he was screaming ad nauseum, "I WANT a TOY, GIVE ME that car, I WANT a DRINK, I WANT a SNACK!!!!!!!!"" everyone within earshot of him said, "You know what we want? We want duct tape..." THEN he ran down the aisle away from his mom. Great. And to bribe him back to the seat, he was given candy and juice. SUGAR!!!!! JUST what he needed to calm right down. UNbelievable. And his mom said to me, "I wonder why he hasn't taken his nap yet?" You wonder?! He is so spooled up, even with earplugs his piercing voice has been plaguing me the past 3 hours. He has been tearing pages out of books, hitting his mom, you name it, little Everett has tried it, totally dominating his mom. Los is biting his fingernails in stress and I am freaking out, because we only imagine Claire as angelic. What if her tendency is to be demonic as well? What do we do? How do you discipline and give good boundaries? Neither of us had a model that would be helpful to us now growing up (his was more strict than we'd like, mine was more lenient than we'd like) so we need some advice. That's where you come in.
We just left our great friends, the Flory's, who are already 2.5 months into being awesome parents. They showed us some cool books they have used as resources, and I thought I would ask you all in blog-dom as well; what are tools you've used and read to become great parents of great infants and toddlers. Do tell, oh wise ones. We are all ears!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hello, my name is Casey, and I am addicted to California.

I fell in love with my homestate all over again our first day back. "There's NO place like home!" I feel like a regular Dorothy, exclaiming this from practically the moment we stepped off the plane until the moment I went to bed last night. I realize that I could lose most all of my friends/readers by throwing out the superlatives I want to right now, so please filter this email through your sensibilities and see it in light of what it is, someone who feels like they've been walking through the desert for a season, and has finally found oasis. TX is our desert. It is dry, flat and unstimulating to us; and while some (MANY) people love it so much, they wish it could secede from the union and become its own country again, for us, it is a season to endure (a la the Israelites) to get to the Promiseland, which in our mind, would be here. Trust me, I know my ego is so big about my homestate that it's amazing I can fit my huge head through a doorframe. So if this blog is annoying, I apologize. I usually try to be very globally-minded, and roll my eyes at people who are super nationalistic, wearing red, white and blue everything, and praising America to the high heavens, thinking its the best country ever. So I understand that that is exactly how I am about to sound. I'm sorry. But just as everyone wants to feel some sense of "HOME", and knows what it's like to "come home" after being away, the comfort, the peace, the joy, the familiarity, etc. that comes with a sense of "home," that is how our souls feel today. We may have 2 plus years left in our desert, but we are getting a taste of the promiseland, to remind us what there is to hope for on the other side of the desert.

And as an aside, the desert isn't so bad of a place to be, don't get me wrong! I love TX, it's great. The people we've built community with, the slow pace of life, the ability to have careers we like and start our family, as well as live in a gorgeous home in a neighborhood we enjoy, trust me, these are all things we are grateful for. When the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years, they had deep friendships, got married, had children, and I'm sure they had fond memories of that season, in ways, once it was over. We will have the same, life is good there. It just isn't home.

And when we stepped off the plane in San Francisco, we started to remember what home feels like, and that elation has felt like a drug that has kept me high for the past 24 hours. No kidding, I walked off that plane smiling like an idiot, and I haven't been able to wipe that smile off my face ever since then. Los said I should be the governator of CA (Lord knows we need a new one!) because he thinks no one loves CA as much as I do. I don't know about that:) but if you ever need a tour guide, I'm your woman. When we were landing, our breath was taken away by the beauty of the Bay Area, the mountains, water and cityscape. Walking off the plane, the architecture and art and diversity in the airport made us realize what we've longed for and been missing in TX. And this is all before we stepped outside and breathed the air! I tell you, I really feel like I was on drugs, having a high all day. Our first stop was by Stanford, in Palo Alto, for Los to get some caffeine at Peet's, his fave coffee shop. I stood outside stretching, and trying hard not to have my jaw drop as I stared (trying to be discreet, but probably non-successfully) at everyone in joy. I just loved everybody! I miss cafes where people are outdoors: cyclists, cute families, the random elderly person that you know has a great life story, the quirky woman holding two dogs... Oh man, I would not have stopped ogling if we didn't have an agenda.

Next we drove down to Carmel, which if you have not been there before, PLEASE put it on your life's to-do list. It is impossibly charming here. An unbelievable area. And the drive to get here alone, is phenomenal. You leave the Bay Area, passing all of the "tech" headquarters, and Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, whomever... and then drop down into the fertile land that provides our nation's produce. In our short drive, we passed by fields of artichokes, strawberries, and orchards of various kinds. We passed by acres and acres of vineyards and numerous wineries with tasting rooms. Then we went through the Redwoods, which separate the coast from the fertile valleys; they are sky-scraping tall and marvelous in their own right.
In less than 2 hours from the airport, we were down in beautiful Monterey country, where we luckily get to spend the next week. The night before our flight I laughed inside when our restaurant hostess asked if we enjoyed our meals. I said, "it was okay." And it was, it was fine, it got the job done. But to ENJOY my meal takes way more than Applebee's. Yesterday we ENJOYED what we ate.

We parked on one of Carmel's idyllic European-village feeling streets, and met my parents at Casanova's, one of my new favorite restaurants. I had a goat cheese sandwich that was so good, describing it would almost be an injustice to the art it was, like trying to describe the most moving song you've ever heard... Okay, I'm exaggerating, maybe just a little:) But it was better than anything I've eaten in TX in 5 months, that' s for sure. And Los had what my dad called the best crab salad he's ever tasted in his life (and he's old, he knows what he's talking about! j/k dad!)

After lunch, we went on a long walk on Carmel beach, which is such a fun place if you have or like dogs. Dogs of all shapes and sizes are allowed to be off-leash, and they run and play in the water- it's comical to watch. My parent's Golden, Jake, had a ball there. I am not complaining about the Gulf, I would rather be by water than not, and it's warm, which is novel; but man was it good to see the Pacific again! Later in the afternoon, we showed Los 17-Mile Drive, another "must" in the local area. Pebble Beach is ridiculous, ostentatious, but gorgeous nonetheless. We took some photos on the 4th green (I don't think we were trespassing, other people were there walking) of what I think may be the most expensive golf course in America. I heard it's $500/person/round. I can't even imagine that. That's more than my flight from TX and rental car cost! We heard the bagpiper in his kilt, serenading the sunset, then went to see my friends, the seals, who hang out all year, living the good life in PB, laying on the beach and frolicking in the water. Way fewer were here in March than when I last came, in July, but it was fun to watch them. I love the marine life in this area.

Our perfect day was capped by a birthday dinner for me at one of Clint Eastwood's places, Mission Ranch. The hotel and restaurant are in a beautiful area, and the piano bar full of competing "cougars" kept us entertained while we waited for our delectable meals. Cindy and I had local Sea Bass with a fresh mango chutney and spinach. Los had hand-rolled pasta and prawns in a garlic wine sauce. And my dad had their prime rib, all amazing. Again, food I ENJOYED eating. Then to my surprise, led by the pianist/singer, all 50+ people in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday to me, as I was given some to-die-for chocolate mousse pie. The four of us shared it before retiring for the eve with smiles on our faces and warmth in our hearts/bellies. I never saw Clint that night, but that's okay. Maybe next birthday?

Today promises to be another glorious day, we are going to explore Point Lobos state park, and do some window-shopping in Carmel's cute boutiques before saying goodbye to my parents. Tomorrow is my actual 30th bday (though we are stretching out the celebrations all month!) and Los begins grad school bright and early. Who knows how I will spend all week exploring, but you are sure to hear about it. First order of business, however, is going back to sleep. It is early and dark and I need the rest, I just couldn't sleep one more minute until I professed my undying love for California, which, while not my current home, remains the home in my heart. I want to soak it in so much that to sleep seems like it would rob me of that ability, yet back to bed I go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baby Claire's Bedding and Nursery and Diaper Dilemma

Given that we leave for Cali on Friday and then head to Seattle until March 31st, we won't really be in TX again until I am 31 weeks preggo. In my zeal, this past month I thought maybe I could learn to sew and design all of Claire's nursery to be 100% unique. Nothing but the best for our first born! But let's be realistic... THAT'S NOT going to happen. I would like to learn how to sew at some point, for sure, but maybe NOT right before giving birth... So I had to say goodbye to the warm pink/salmon and green and cream paisley that I fell in love with at JoAnn's fabrics. Another time. Luckily, we found online from my friend Heidi, this great alternative paisley print. I don't want the Pepto Bismol Pink walls or matchy matchy anything in her room, but I at least like this bedding. Los painted a little dresser green for Claire, to put next to a glider, and now we're trying to figure out what kind of crib we want. So hopefully in April her nursery will come together. Just in case she comes early in May:) Diaper options are currently what stress us out most, but other than that things are looking like they'll fall into place nicely before she comes. Would love to hear all your wise counsel on diapers, the more specific the better. Fun fun!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

On Marriage: Here I am, Send me! Or not. Maybe later...

Some times I wonder what was the deal with Isaiah 6, this great "sending" text we use in the Church. When Isaiah said, "God, here am I, send me!" was that the position of his heart no matter what? Once Isaiah heard what his mission in life was going to be, was he still on board? Or did he want to rescind his offer to be sent by God into a hurting world?
Some times I wonder about the same thing in my own life. Certain days I am like, "Yes God, USE ME!!" and yet there are times when I find out specifically how God might use me, I say, "nah, I changed my mind; get back to me with another, more lucrative offer..." Or even worse, "God, I meant can you use me on my own terms?" Anyway, gotta love our human frailty and self-focus:) Maybe this is why Isaiah made it into the Bible and I didn't:)

I have noticed recently that a lot of marriages aren't as healthy as they could be. Maybe this has always been the case, and I just have ears to hear about it now? I mean, there's the obvious and tragic statistics nationally, that so many marriages end, for one reason or another. But that seems nebulous, whereas the people I know who's hearts ache for something better, deeper, etc. seem to be increasing. Lots of wives have been sharing that they don't feel heard, safe or supported by their husbands. I'm sure if I was a dude, guys would be echoing that same sentiment to me. A lot of people seem unsatisfied with their marriages. Marriages aren't as urgent to maintain, like getting the bills paid, and the kids to school on time, so some people take them for granted and don't work on them. Military (or other job-required) separations exacerbate the problem as well. I am as guilty of this as the next person.

The past 6 weeks, we joined some neighbors in a marriage enrichment group that met short-term on Sunday nights. The sessions were heated and draining at times, as people shared their pain, anger and tears. Other than ourselves and the leaders, who've been married over 40 years, no one seemed to have very good habits in place for working through conflicts. For example, it was alarming to hear a guy say that he always "fights to win" and didn't seem to mind that that makes his wife of 18 years constantly withdraw. Or a wife of over a decade, say to her husband that she feels like she knows facts about him, but doesn't really feel like she KNOWS him. Pain. My heart grieved for these couples and so many others that have recently confided in us about their struggles.

So I asked the leaders where to refer couples that live locally and could really use some tools like those this group equip you with. I was hoping for a book, or an email address to recommend to people. To our surprise, the leaders then said they think Los and I should lead a group like this for 7 or 8 couples. Immediately, other couples affirmed that, and one even said they'd love to join our group. I was taken aback, mouth open, as I had not been interested in leading a group at all. I just wanted a quick fix to offer people, not the chance to really enter into their suffering and model/guide them toward health. Hence my questions about Isaiah, I've been praying, "Lord, do something for all these hurting marriages!" Not expecting or desiring at all that we might be part of the solution we're praying for...

So that brings us to today, as we're now considering leading one of these groups. I have no idea what it would look like, and if the 3rd trimester of pregnancy is the right timing for it, but it seems to be something growing in our hearts, marriage ministry. We are blessed to be a blessing, and if we could facilitate a space for other people's growth and freedom, that would be very cool, albeit a surprising new venture for us. Who knows where it could lead? So I'd love to hear from you married people out there!! What are the tools in your marriage that have made it work well for you?! What nuggets of wisdom do you have to pass on to others? How do you address areas in which you struggle? Any and everything you have to offer us would be awesome, either on this blog or in a private email. Thanks a lot friends, may we all grow in grace as we grow in age.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

poem and prayer

it is a new day.
it is a brand new day.
life has changed.
life will never be the way it was.
for you do not delight in my sacrifices that produce
woe to these bandaids.
in this lenten season,
and once, for all,
i am forgiven
and being made whole.