Sunday, July 27, 2014

Living in between

The sermon today at FUS was on "living in between" which seemed divinely inspired and aimed directly at us. I am sure more individuals and families than us are at the awkward in-between stages of life, but I could not help but feel moved by so many of the readings and the words of Minister Sara herself. I keep thinking about how the in-between times are times of growth, times of transformation, and times of fear. Fear of what comes beyond, but also fear that what was left behind was worth holding on to. Imagine you are on a trapeze, and you are perfectly content hanging on and swinging, but then you see another bar flying towards you and you left go. On a whim, or after careful consideration, whichever, you let go and soar through the air towards the empty bar. There is the exhilaration of defying gravity as you soar through the air, the fear you will fall, but also the hope that you will grab the next bar, seize the moment. This is precisely how I feel about going to Austin... we are leaving a perfectly wonderful life here in Madison, we love the city, I was cruising through school, we have friends everywhere. Why leave? But when the flying bar called Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary came rushing towards us, we decided to left go of our current life and soar towards a new one. We are currently in the air, in that gravity-defying moment in between, and we have no idea how the next few years will go. I'm applying to jobs, had one interview, but not much news. There is so much uncertainty, a little anxiety, but also plenty of excitement and eager anticipation.

This in-between life ain't so rough either... here's what we do, living in the chasm.

Cheer on Argentina!

Play Pokemon!

Fairy Garden!

Eat at Madison tourist attractions!

Splash pad it up!

Cat. Nap.

Watermelon! Lots and lots of watermelon.

Party with the block! 
Lose softball games! (despite Tim's skills)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The next step

I am really glad that I am free to talk about this. We had good reasons for not talking about this publicly for a while, but now we can, so that's nice.

We are moving to Austin, Texas this fall, somewhere around August 25th so that I can start on my Master of Divinity degree at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. I have high hopes of becoming a Unitarian-Universalist minister when the program is over spending a lifetime taking way to long to explain to strangers "what's that church about again?"

I wrote a long post about my reasons for considering seminary in a post that was briefly on our blog and then moved here to a blog that I always have plans for updating.

So, I'll let you read that, which I wrote before visiting Austin back in February. After that visit I knew I was hooked. I knew that if I didn't go, I would always be wondering what would have happened if I did. I had all sorts of doubts going in about the worth of exploring seminary as an option, and although I left with plenty of doubts still in place, I touched something special enough in those three days. I still applied to Starr King, but Austin had way more financial aid available and a lower cost of living in Austin, but more than that, they had something special there in terms of community that was immediately apparent. A high percentage of the ~125 students live on campus in the student housing where we will also be living and we will all be together on a small campus. Basically, it is as close to the Jedi Academy/hippie commune as I am likely going to get in a grad school experience. 'Cause let's be real, I only want to be a UU minister because it's about as close to a Jedi Knight as I am ever going to get without abandoning my family to become a buddhist monk.

But seriously, if a day is coming where I don't like talking about what I believe, what other believe, what in the world we are doing here on this crazy planet and trying to find myself in a more spiritually whole place day by day, I certainly am not seeing it coming.

I am still in the "discernment" process to really decide if I want to be a minister, but I feel like there is no way I am going to find out until I start moving towards it. This degree--being low-cost (we got an estimate of total fees and tuition for the next year that was $2,000 after financial aid and are living in heavily subsidized student housing), limited in its time commitment (two years and an internship) and in one of my top-5 places to live, with plenty of other directions in which to take the master's degree should I choose not to become a minister (chaplain, religious scholar, college librarian in the religion department)--seems like such a good chance to find out that we decided that I couldn't pass it up.

Of course, that means that we are leaving Madison, at least for now, and Cait is pausing her PhD, at least for now. That's kind of her part of the process to talk about, but I can safely say that this was a joint decision and something we both want. We're not sure what this means for the future for either of us really, but here's a hint: if you think you can predict where Cait will be in 2 years, let alone 5 or 10, you don't know her very well. I'm just glad to know that wherever we are going, we are going there together.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

So much time for activities

This blog has obviously hit a low point as to how often it is updated. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that we have some big changes happening on the horizon that we are not discussing publicly (no, it's not a baby), and I have a hard time blogging with a filter on (as anyone who reads our blog knows). But the other problem is that we have just so much free time. I've always found that the more unstructured time I have, the harder it is to fit in my "important but not urgent" tasks, the one Seven Habits calls "Quadrant 2" activities. When I was on the FUS teen trip the other week, when time was really limited, I got in a good run every day, but now that I have a ton of free time, it is so easy to put it off for "a better time" until it is dark and I am tired and I'll just do it tomorrow. Blogging is one of those "important but not urgent" tasks that slips away when there is too much free time.

Cait and I have talked about this a few times, but it almost seems like being a really top-notch parent is easier when we are not both around. I'm really proud of how well I did as a solo-parent while Cait was gone for 3 weeks. Did our kids eat a few bowls of Cap'n Crunch, yes, they did, but they also ate a ton of vegetables, played outside all day and read an endless pile of books with me. I was focused, present, kept the house quite clean and kept my temper fairly well, even as it got hot. But now that Cait and I are together all day, I have a lot harder time stepping up and find it a lot easier to drop into a chair with a book. Of course, reading a book a few hours a day during a long, lazy summer is fine, but I am having a hard time even doing my half of the household responsibilities, which usually consist of cleaning and monitoring active and outdoor play for the kids (Cait usually defaults to cooking and transitions and taking the kids to activities outside the home). I just feel like I have a lot less energy and need more sleep and downtime when Cait is around. It's all going fine, of course, the houses we've stayed in have stayed pretty clean, the kids have mostly stayed off devices and the kids play outside plenty, but it still feels almost harder to get these things to happen when we are both home.

Of course, solo parenting only seems to work well for us when we feel like the other parent is doing something important, so spending a few hours in a coffee shop reading a book alone doesn't quite have the same effect as studying for finals or volunteering for a week.

I have been getting more alone time than Cait, for sure (like right now at this bakery and coffee shop while Cait is at the splash pad with the kids)

, but I spend most of it working, as I am the one with the stay-at-home job that I've never found exciting enough to really blog about, but that rarely feels the same as a real job that I am going to (although it probably pays better per hour than any job that we've had before).

Anyway, that's what's been on my mind. We realize that it's totally a luxury to have both parents choosing to be at home (not involuntarily unemployed, for instance). It's great that Cait could get some intensive field work done in the first month of the summer leaving us with two months to bounce around rent free in the unoccupied homes of vacationing friends, but the trials of luxury are still worth talking about, right? Maybe not.

Do any of our readers have experience with both parents at home for an extended period? How did it go? Do you have any tips or tricks? Or anything you want us to blog about, besides our secret? We are taking requests.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer staycation: Week at the Lonsdale farm

We moved out of our apartment on June 30th, but don't have a "permanent" place to live until the 17th, so we are spending a few weeks hanging out with friends around Madison. After one night at the McKay's house, we headed out to the Lonsdale's farm. It's about 25 minutes west of Madison, and we were planning on camping in their field. After we arrived though, and realized that thunderstorms were anticipated, we decided to set up camp in their beautiful, spacious home instead where we stayed for the remainder of the week. Atticus was supposed to share the bunk beds with Donovan, who decided he didn't want to sleep in there if Atticus was on the bottom, and used the opportunity to take up space in his parents' bed. So much for a sleepover...

Anyways, besides a beautiful, large home, they also have a lot of wild land and pasture with sheep, llamas, chickens, and two tiny hogs. We did a lot in a short week, which included playing outside with the chickens, going to the children's museum, swimming at the local public swimming pool and pond, playing at FUS, and Tim and I even managed a date night to Andrew's community theatre production of Rent and dinner at Hubbard's diner, a local Middleton favorite. We spent a lot of time eating delicious food and sharing in great conversations. The kids spent a lot of time playing in their monolithic basement play room and watching too many movies. The little boys were loving playing together (they are currently watching Beauty and the Beast, adorable) and the little girls knew each other existed and played nicely most of the time. I loved cooking in the big, gorgeous kitchen, looking out the huge windows with the rolling, green Wisconsin hills outside of them.

Moving the hogs to a new feeding ground. Alice and Beatrice are clearing the land for a playground.

Lu and Luka the llama

It was a great week, and we are thankful to have such amazing friends living the homesteading dream in rural Wisconsin.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eurotour 2014: Zagreb

The day after Sarah arrived, we headed out in the morning for Croatia. We planned on hitchhiking, and so headed to the spot our hostel had looked up for us that was ideal for getting out of Budapest. After accidentally buying alcoholic pear cider (it was delicious), we split up and started to look for a ride. Sarah and I were picked up within five minutes, by an older man driving a minivan who was heading all the way to Zagreb. Score. He didn't speak very much English, but it was an enjoyable ride. He asked if he could stop off to visit a business associate, and so we headed off the freeway for a few miles to a little resort type beach place on Lake Balaton. There were so many cute naked Hungarian children digging in the sand, I wished for about 25 seconds that my kids were there. Then I remembered I was riding in a minivan with only one seat in the back and remembered that being there would have been impossible with my kids, so I added the site to my future to-do travel list when my kids are around. Our chauffeur bought us wine, ice cream cones, and a coffee; we tried to turn down all three, but he insisted and we eventually felt really rude and relinquished. His business friends were equally as hospitable, and after the quick 30 minutes he promised, we were on our way. We were both nervous that a "30-minute trip" to see friends might end up being hours but it really was a quick stop-off and we were in Zagreb before too long. He walked us right to our designated meeting spot and we sat down and prepared to wait for Dana.

Our driver: he was maybe an architect, who was working in Zagreb on something having to do with an oil pipeline, or he invented dog food...

Ice cream, more ice cream.

Zagreb was so beautiful, and so clean.

A picture of what this will look like when it's completed.

The pillar on the left is what happened during communism when the leaders were more concerned about everyone being fed and having work/free childcare/etc. and not about what the old religious buildings looked like.

I found free public WiFi (it's everywhere in Zagreb!) and we received a message from Dana that she was stuck in a gas station somewhere in Hungary, had a run-in with the Hungarian police that ended in a 30 euro fine, but was traveling with a new Finnish friend, Evelin. She told us she wouldn't be making it for a few hours, and we should go ahead and find a hostel for the night. We walked to a few before we found one that had room for four -- it was called the Swanky Mint Hostel, which is awesome.

Dana and Evelin's triumphant arrival to the meeting spot.

The Swanky Mint was by far the cleanest and fanciest hostel we stayed at... for a hefty $20 each.

Evelin and I spent several hours in the bar chatting while Dana and Sarah collapsed into bed. Evelin then disappeared, and we later found out, went to a party and stayed out all night. We were all worried like "omg, did she get kidnapped or something??" like naive American girls that we are. And she's all like, "dude, I'm European, we stay out all night sometimes, stop freaking out." We planned on leaving very early in the morning, but ended up missing the earlier bus and so didn't leave Zagreb until around 10 am.... next post... Plitvice, aka Heaven on Earth.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Return of the Mommy

After a short phone call to Delta, I was able to change my plane ticket (for free) to get home a day earlier from New York City (even though the agent at the airport told me they couldn't change it, and it would cost "at least $150"). The kids and Tim came to the airport in Eliza's minivan and had a very cute sign they made. It was a nice reunion, and the after party at home after the kids went to sleep was even better. Of course, not five seconds later the tornado sirens started sounding. We debated going to the basement, threw on clothes, and checked our iPhones for updates. We saw the storm was moving towards Madison, and decided to head down there. We picked up the kids from their beds and went to the basement. Of course, none of our neighbors were there and after a few minutes we went back upstairs. Another louder siren sounded right after we got back up, but since we had barely put the kids back down we decided to wait it out upstairs. It turned out to be a nasty storm, with a tornado touching down on the east side of Madison, one on the south side, and one in Verona (the worst one). Glad we were spared; when the sun came out the next day you couldn't even tell we had a storm.

Minimalist traveling at its best: that's all I took for three weeks.
The days after my return were filled with the children's museum, the Milwaukee Zoo, and lots and lots of playing outside at our playground and with our neighbor friend, Antonia.

Walking down the street wearing his "goggles"

Atticus fell into the stream on the roof, luckily he can fit in Lulah's pants.