Friday, May 30, 2014

Since Cait's been gone: Going away party

It's been a week now, since Cait left. So far I would say it's been about 35% more difficult than usual. I think the hardest part is not having someone to give me a break when my temper gets short, or help me to get the kids to transition-whether to bed, or to go somewhere-which is always our toughest moments. They are children of inertia, certainly. Also, cooking. Anyway, I'm going to blog so I feel like an accomplished short-term solo-parent. (I like to distinguish between single parents, who have to raise and financially support their children on their own, or mostly on their own, and solo parents, whose spouse is not at home but still supporting them, and who have a much easier job than single parents, even if it is still obviously difficult, because fairness).

Going away party

There was some doubt as to whether a going-away party would conflict with a friend's birthday party, so we sent out the potluck signal fairly late and were surprised and pleased to see how many showed up. You can certainly count on Mormons for pot-lucks. Or at least not to have other plans on a Friday night.

Slide despondency

Dave is so sad to see Cait go

Action shots of Cait. I'm on the fence about whether or not she will hate these photos:

Happy by mommy
Attack of the Chambers

Thanks for coming out everyone. Sorry I brought out the camera late and missed many of you. Actually, people mostly hate photos taken of them, so I guess maybe you're welcome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Welcome in Tunisia

After a tearful goodbye and a bus ride where I contemplated hopping off and heading home several times, I made it to the Madison airport and onto my flight. I was really sad, alternating between kicking myself for leaving my loves behind and crying because I could just picture our sweet reunion in three weeks. It didn't take long for me to turn around because I sat next to a really awesome environmental studies grad student named Valerie who was heading to Sweden for a forum with Bill Clinton (and other famous people I forget now). We chatted the whole trip to Detroit, then I hopped quickly off the plane and ran to catch my NYC flight, on the far other side of the airport.

My depression returned when I sat down on the flight, again comprehending just how far I would be from the people I love the most for so long. A veiled woman and her husband sat down next to me, and immediately when I heard their Levantine dialect, I started chatting it up with them. I love greeting people in Arabic when they don't know you speak Arabic, because they at first are like "huh?" and then they (usually) get super happy and excited that you speak Arabic. We talked the entire two hours to New York, all about our families and our studies and the war in Syria. Her 8-yr-old son lives in Damascus, and she is only able to see him twice a year, and only after flying into Amman and driving from there into Syria, since no flights go directly to Damascus. And though I still am craving some Lu kisses and Atticus cuddles, it put my whole experience into perspective for me. Three weeks, while my kids are safely tucked into their regular life in an incredibly safe city.... I can handle this. Anywho, she was amazing and we are already Facebook friends and we already planned a future visit to hang out.

On my stopover from Madison en route to Tunis, I stayed a night with my old Cairean friends Jason and Sarah (and Charlie and Milo). We stayed up way too late chatting, and I remembered just how much I love Sarah. She is terrible at Facebook and email, so you have to hang out with her in real life to truly get her full essence. She is the greatest. And her tiny boys were so precious... Charlie was sensitive and espressive and a Superman lover. Milo was a squishy, chubby ball of perfection who still smelled like a baby and not a sweaty toddler. They had moved 90% of their belongings the day I arrived, but Sarah was still up for a long walk and pizza until late at night. They live in this amazing area of Brooklyn in a gorgeous brownstone across from a huge park, so basically the best place ever. Sadly, for all involved except the grandparents, they are moving back to Provo in a week. I am happy my trip coincided with the time before the move though, because it was a really *lovely* visit. We didn't do anything tourist-y, just went to church and ate Chipotle and went to a splash pad. Why are there SO MANY PEOPLE in New York?? I always forget this until I go back again. Do you ever run into anyone you know? I love it, but I think I prefer our tiny Madison city better.

I went to JFK that evening, and our flight ended up being delayed three hours. I sat around, read my Kindle, chatted up some old women who asked me if I was really going to talk to the "native African women" feminists. Yes, why yes I am. One of my favorite parts of the waiting was when the sunset prayer happened, and the waiting room was turned into a makeshift mosque. I sat on my flight from NYC to Casablanca next to a professor from France currently teaching in North Carolina, who is leading a study abroad group in Rabat for the summer. On my second flight to Tunis, I sat next to a Tunisian guy who works in the oil fields in Gabon, and flies home twice a month. Both were lovely to chat with.

I arrived in Tunis late afternoon on May 26th. My host, Salma, graciously offered to pick me up from the airport and I found her effortlessly. We drove to her house where I will be staying during my time in Tunis. I have a nice room with a bed and sitting area, and then I share the bathroom and kitchen with her family (she has two sons, they are 12 and 9, I think). She lives in an area of Tunis called Bardo, and it's not a wealthy area but it's culturally rich. There is a famous museum close by that I plan to visit soon, and the Tunisian parliament is right around the corner.

Salma also prepared couscous with vegetables and (I later found out) intestine and liver. It was so tasty, I ate intestine in South Africa and it was terrible but this was prepared well and subtle but flavorful. The couscous was different than Morocco, a lot spicier and less liquidy. A perfect meal though, because I was hungry but also tired and the thought of having to find something to eat the night I arrived was daunting to me.

After a rough night's sleep (always an adjustment), I woke up and ate some yogurt, then did a little iPad reading and research. Salma showed me the bus stops and metro so I could find my way into town, then we went to the local store to purchase my staples: pasta, tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers. I will eat this every day for the next two weeks -- it's our Middle Eastern staple, easy to make and ridiculously cheap. I also bought some of those weird cheese squares, some bread, and strawberries. A kilo of strawberries is only 2 dinar, which is like $1.50. Woohooooo, cheap produce!

And now, since I have a short trip, it's time to get to work. We will see how many feminist activists I can hunt down, and how many will talk to me.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Atticus photoshoot in 12 photos and 1 video

Also, look for me being vaguely domestic in the background. This post is a veritable gender-norms destruction zone.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This weekend


Cait took Lulah into campus to eat lunch with a friend. I came to get Lulah afterwards so Cait could attend her final Arabic class. We hung out there for a while. We all went back in together to campus later for dinner at the Rathskellar, then Cait took the kids to an African studies dance performance, while I went to my softball game.


This weekend the weather was fantastic, so we maximized our outdoors time. We started off with pancakes on Saturday morning, loaded up our bikes and the bike trailer and rode downtown to the farmer's market on capitol square. The kids wanted no part of slowly churning around the square with the huge crowds, so I took them over to the Children's Museum while Cait finished up shopping.

The kids had a great time at the museum, especially Atticus who had not been there in a while. As a reward for a successful "no screens" week, we were going to go to St. Vinnny's (a thrift store) to look for a checkers game for Atticus (his latest gaming obsession). But he was so enamored with the period replica log cabin that we had to scrap that in order to get back in time to go to church.

That is paint, not sunburn. Calm down.

The kids both fell asleep on the ride back to First Unitarian, but Atticus woke up in time for service, while we were able to leave a sleeping Lulah with the childcare teachers. She apparently woke up fine because she was happy when we picked her up and our "come get your child" beeper never went off. The service was great, the annual "Coming of Age" ceremony, where kids aging out of the youth program get a chance to talk about what they have come to believe through all their years of Religious Education.


Because I got up with a sick Lulah one more time than Cait, I ended up being the one sleeping in on Mother's Day, although if I had been more conscious I probably would have let Cait sleep in instead. Sorry.

After breakfast we headed back to FUS to decorate Peace Poles, which are child-sized poles out in front of the church celebrating efforts toward world peace because why not? The kids had a blast, they both love this kind of up-cycled free-form art project, which is great.

The inter-connected web of existence of which we are all apart. The one on the right is Lulah's the one not on the right is Atticus's

The rest of the day we spent around the house and out in the yard enjoying first an great thunderstorm and then some great evening weather. We both called our mothers and had a nice chat. Unfortunately, mother's day didn't get celebrated too well here, as usual for our house on holidays. One of these days we'll get our celebrating act together. Happy day of the mother's celebrationary tale.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cait is the mother of my children

Here's the thing about my view of Cait as a mother: I knew her for only about seven months before she got pregnant with Atticus on Christmas Eve in my childhood bed. I might also have been there. With how quickly she became sick, that pretty much marks the moment where motherhood fundamentally entered her daily life, at least in my mind.

So in less than 10 percent of the time I've known Cait, and about 4 percent of our married life, has Cait not been a mother. If we could go back and do it again, we probably would have waited. We also probably would have waited to get married. We probably also would have tried living together for a while before we got married. But that might have led us to never get married, or waiting for kids, we might have gotten divorced. Who knows?

I just finished reading 1Q84, which SPOILER ALERT tells the story of a man and a woman who enter into an alternate version of earth (which the woman calls 1Q84, as opposed to the 1984, the year she was living in before she shifted versions) in order to, fatefully, meet each other, as they never could have done so in the world they used to live in.

I feel like, in so many ways, Cait and I have been through the same thing. Looking back and seeing a world where we were so convinced of a guiding Spirit assuring us that it was not only okay, but divinely approved, that we commit to an entire lifetime and eternity together after only knowing each other for a few months and to rush with the same sense of inspiration into parenthood, well, it does seem like a completely different world. Just as in the 1Q84, it is not necessarily a better or worse world, just a fundamentally different world where such decisions made sense. Of course, we continue to rush here and there looking for our path in life, but under a completely different set of assumptions.

All this just leaves me in awe that through all that I've found a partner who fits me so well. People always ask me what Cait thinks about whatever faith step I'm taking, and I always have to pause and recognize, "right, this could be ten times worse, this could be tearing apart our family." We aren't without our difficulties, our disagreements, and our differences, but in this book of life, we have consistantly ended up on the same page, walking through the same shifting landscape together.

Another spoiler from the book, Aomame, the woman, ends up getting pregnant before she reunites with Tengo, the man, and somehow, in this crazy universe, the baby is Tengo's. So, pretty much just like us, they start off their relationship with a child, shifting immediately into the landscape of "you and me" to "us." And that's where the story ends, just where ours began.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Cait is a great mother. She's a great mother because, through all these transitions, she's kept her focus firmly on making sure our family stays together, stays healthy and stays exceptionally frugal. I think the thing I am most proud of is that through all the tough times of our faith transition, our kids haven't ever had to suffer the effects of the transitions, that we've kept the way smooth for them.

Cait epitomizes the family/life balance that seems so elusive in our modern world. She doesn't let one world dominate the other, nor does she ask for too much validation from either side. Confident that she can accomplish greatly, she walks forward with mindful presence and tempered passion, firmly rooted in a core identity that grants her a grace and poise that is rare indeed.

I couldn't have asked for a better partner to make this journey with.

Friday, May 9, 2014

School photos

Don't look at these if you believe in copyright laws...

She screamed when we first took her in... I think she confused photographers with doctors.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Easter Sunday Spectacular

We had a busy, perfect Easter Sunday. Atticus woke up early to find new sand toys from the "Easter Bunny" and a single sugar cookie. Mom and Lulah went to find Easter candy at Whole Foods Saturday night, but apparently they were all sold out so we bought the toys and cookies instead. He was happy with it.

We went to the childrens' Easter service at FUS, where they sang songs and heard stories about the springtime and rebirth. I think the kids enjoyed it, and best of all, it was short. I (this is Cait) went to the adult service in the other part of the building (the historic, Frank Lloyd Wright chapel) where Michael talked about  environmental concerns in the New Testament and Earth Day. I missed most of it, actually, trying to get the kids and Tim to the service and helping with the Easter egg hunt.

Tallulah wore her one fancy dress that she wears on every fancy occasion. 

In true Atticus style, he wore orange corduroys and cowboy boots.

He busted his lip the night before playing outside. It was so swollen and funny the next day.

FUS has a rockin' playground.

With her best FUS friend, Owen. (one of the Owens, there are two)

She is becoming an amazing and daring climber.

The hunt was great, but over pretty short. By the time we got outside (I'm not sure where all the kids came from, but I think their parents must only bring them to FUS on Easter), most of the eggs were found, but there were some teenagers (and Tim) walking around hiding more. It was really fun, and Atticus enjoyed finding them and re-hiding them more than collecting them in his basket. There were candy-free treat baskets. The day turned out to be gloriously warm (rain was forecast) and so we stuck outside for several hours afterwards, hanging out on the playground while Tim went to the next adult service.

We headed home for lunch and a little downtime, and a few hours later, Bob and Kelly's son Stephen came to pick us up to take us out to Verona for another Easter egg hunt and a delicious Easter dinner (ham, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, Scottish eggs--a Radford family tradition--, salad, homemade pie). The kids had an awesome time walking around finding the eggs Kelly hid earlier. They especially loved the candy within each egg. Atticus would dump the candy into his basket and then give the empty egg to Lulah who was happy with just having the eggs. You would think that kid had never ahd a jelly bean before! Oh wait...

Kelly even had candy hidden inside real eggshells and the kids got to crack them on their heads. Atticus thought it was a riot. Another friend from FUS, Stephanie, and her 12-yr-old daughter Hope joined right at dinnertime. The kids loooooved Hope and she played with them so nice.

We love Bob and Kelly. Tallulah even made up a song that she randomly sings throughout the day where she just repeats "BobandKelly, BobandKelly, BobandKelly..." to the tune of Baa, Baa Black Sheep. I know there is a video of it lying around here somewhere.