Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another Brick in the Wall

Since we bought our house four and a half years ago, we've had a running list of home improvement projects. The list keeps getting longer and we haven't quite been able to strike as many items from the list as we would have hoped. We cite having three kids in a little over four years to be our primary reason for this slow home improvement!

Despite our turtle's pace, we've really attacked some big projects this year. It's always been our hope to finish the basement, but we had structural cracks to repair and water issues to address. We had the structural cracks/foundation issues repaired this summer, and were convinced that this was the solution to our basement water woes. Not the case - water still floods into our window well in the basement (thanks to our awesome home location at the bottom of a sloping hill, where our yard becomes home to all our higher-lying neighbors' water). We have big plans to regrade the backyard in the spring.
A smaller DIY project that we knew we could do was build a retaining wall to keep water out of our carport that inevitably seeps into the basement in small, yet annoying quantities. We finished the project in 4 days/evenings and had some very helpful pint-sized laborers! The project was every small child's dream: a huge pile of dirt delivered by a dump truck, a rainstorm that turned some of that pile of dirt into a mud pit, and much shoveling, dumping, and splashing. The girls braved the heat and humidity to build our wall that we all feel pretty proud of as our family creation. Here are some photo highlights!

Ainsley checking the soil saturation levels. (A very technical project than resulted in her little body caked with mud)

Reiley clearing out the mud from the puddle in order to "rebuild the river."

The mini manual laborers enjoying a well-deserved snack.


The finished product!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Most Important Job

The Mary Poppins soundtrack is getting constant play in our minivan's CD player. Reiley's seen the movie once, but with her unrivaled steel trap memory, she recalls little subtleties about the movie that I didn't realize she had picked up on. This has led to some in-depth discussions about the inner turmoil of various characters. We've talked at length about why the Daddy (Mr. Banks) is simultaneously distraught and happy about losing his job (for those of you who don't talk about this daily - his realization that work does not completely erase the need to spend time with his family).

She's seemed to have come to terms with Mr. Banks' character development throughout the movie, and now she's turned her interest to Mrs. Banks. Prompted by questions about why the kids have a nanny, I tried to give an age-appropriate summary of the Women's Suffrage Movement, and Mrs. Banks ("The Mommy's") excitement about getting women the vote. Being pro-woman and pro-political involvement myself, I was stressing the importance of the Mommy's involvement by saying, "That's an important job, too". Reiley replied, "But that is not the MOST important job, Mom. I think the most important job is being a mommy, because kids' jobs are are to play and learn. And they need a grown-up, like their Mom or Dad, to help them do that."

Whoa - four-year-olds don't worry about the political or social ramifications of their opinions. While various women could jump all over this statement and land on one ideological side or the other, I silenced that part of my brain and heard what my daughter was implicitly saying:

Thanks for being there for me, Mom. I think you are important.

In that moment, it became very clear to me what I have been grappling with these several years that I started working very part-time from home to stay home with my kids. My kids don't look at me as woman with advanced degree and student loans she's still paying off stalling her career by working part-time and unsure of when she'll ever re-enter the full-time work force. Who do I think the people that have this opinion are? Does it matter what society's expectations for "women like me" are? Over the years, I've turned my back on those messages to find out what I really want for my family and my children, and things have become more and more clear. As many of you know, the world of motherhood isn't always valued by society, and doesn't come with a lot of tangible pay-offs and promotions like the business world. Little fleeting moments like these are illuminating and validating.

Thanks, Reiley, for putting things in perspective so simply. I stay at home with my children for my children. Not to make a political or feminist statement or stand in judgement of others. I'm here to just be there for them, and it was incredible to feel truly appreciated.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sprinkler Picnic

On Sunday, we decided to bypass the late-afternoon hump with a picnic at the park. How did we enjoy a picnic in 95 degree weather, you may ask? With huge, delicious burritos for pregnant Mommy (my all-time favorite pregnancy craving three pregnancies running), Budweiser for Daddy, and sprinklers for the kids.
What is it about upwardly moving water that is so exciting for kids?? I am amazed at how my girls can be so grumpy and antagonistic in the air-conditioned house, and once you take them outside into the scorching heat and turn on the sprinkler, the rage melts away. Seriously, the look of careless abandon on Reiley's face cracks me up - it's just fast-moving water! Though the fact that she loves it so much is exciting to me, because she refused to touch any water spraying from a sprinkler until last summer.

Ainsley also got mentally lost inside some type of waterworld wonderland while we were there. I imagine her mind playing a trippy Beatles-esque song (Sprinkler Park Forever to the tune of Strawberry Fields Forever) as she pads along the sprinkler park.
I felt happily full of burrito in the summer scorcher, Daddy felt slightly drunk (only kidding :-)), and the kids were enthralled with the water. I think we have a new plan for every Sunday afternoon in August.