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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Choices

I haven’t blogged for a long time. And mainly because everything I’ve wanted to write, everything I’ve had to say, needs to be told through this one lens. Which should be announced through a happier/cuter manner, but this is where I am today and how I’m gonna do it.

God willing and the creeks don’t rise, we’re gonna have a baby come January.

Let me back up now. Last time I wrote, it was about needing a job. Partially induced by the “OMG I’m pregnant we’re poor this baby is gonna need somewhere to sleep other than a dresser drawer!” But I also want a job. But John and I have made some choices in our marriage that means we’re gonna do things a little differently than the average people our age. It might come off as more “traditional,” but I hope that as you read you’ll see we made these choices because they were best for us, not because we wanted to fit into some patriarchal ideal of what a family should be.

First off, we got married young. Not had-to-get-our-parents-permission-to-sign-the-marriage-license young, or even MTV-would-want-to-make-a-reality-show young, but raise-a-few-eyebrows young. I was two weeks into my 24th year, and John was just a few months older. I’d been on my own for a few years (though full disclosure – my parents still pay my cellphone bill, mainly out of my mother’s fear that I’ll switch plans and then never call home. Don’t tell her Verizon is practically the only carrier in Montana. They also spotted a few plane tickets home, for primarily the same reason), and I wasn’t exactly moving out of my parents’ house into my husbands’.

We got married young not because we felt like we should, or to have sex, or to move in together (we had already lived together for a year in JVC), but because we were in love, we knew it was right, we weren’t old but were old enough to make this decision, and we wanted to. Had we met when we were 32 instead of 22, we would have gotten married then. Sure, some people thought we were crazy for getting married before finishing law/grad school, but in the long run, it made far more sense for us. Getting married at 24 is definitely not for everyone, but dating for 10 years wasn’t for us either.

The next big factor in this journey wasn’t a choice we made. I got sick. Being diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, a chronic bladder condition, wasn’t just an annoying matter of having to pee more often; it was life-changing. More problems piled on quickly after that (those I chose not to blog about, because believe it or not, they are more personal than my bladder!) and we spent most of our first year of marriage in doctors’ offices, researching treatments, reading books, and in physical therapy. It was stressful, hard, depressing, but we were happier than ever we had chose to get married.

Although IC itself has no effect on fertility, one of my extra problems, endometriosis, meant that we might not be able to have children, and other factors had potential indirect impacts on our ability to conceive. We had both always known we wanted to have kids. We felt it was our calling, that we were meant to parent and raise children. Again, not for everyone, but we knew it was for us. We had never planned on when we were going to have kids, and definitely didn’t plan on having them this early on, but when we realized it was something we badly wanted and weren’t sure was going to happen, we knew we didn’t want to wait 10 years to find out having biological children wasn’t a possibility.

So we went for it. And to our GREAT surprise, it worked.

Which means that we’re having a baby 7 months after I graduated with my MA and 5 months after we move, making the job search pretty difficult. We knew this was a possibility when we decided to have kids, but to be honest, we thought it was pretty remote. But more than that, we knew this was ultimately our priority. The timing means, however, that unless I have a job and am sitting at a desk in 2 weeks (not looking likely!) I won’t have a guaranteed maternity leave (with the state at least, where I am mainly looking. Not a lot of public health jobs in the private sector, let me tell ya). And if I do, it would be for 6 weeks. (You have to work somewhere for 12 months to qualify for the Family/Medical Leave Act where you can take a longer unpaid leave.) It must be my maternal instincts kicking in already, but the thought of leaving a 6 week old newborn at home/daycare isn’t something I can handle. (Not because I think it’s a “wrong” choice for anyone; I just know I couldn’t make it work.)

Since we made the decision that being home with a newborn is a priority, and time is ticking away, (and the economy sucks), finding a full-time job that I can take leave from before the baby comes is looking to be about zilch. Not because of my assumed pessimism, but because I have checked job postings every day for months and there’s nothing really out there that will work right now. I’m still waiting to hear back form jobs I’ve already applied for, but they aren’t looking too promising.

So the options I have left are to a) be a stay at home wife, and b) do part time/temporary work. While I’ve had some leads on some temp jobs (and even one interview!) they’re looking tough too. One goes from November-March, so that’s obviously out. The other starts a few weeks before my parents want to take a big family reunion trip. Because we couldn’t afford/didn’t have time to fly home this summer, and none of my family came to visit this year, it’s the only real chance to get together. It’s a bummer to have to turn down a potential job for it though.

So it looks like I’ll probably substitute teaching come fall. (Which does have a small potential to make more money than above temp job, if I work every day!). Does it upset my feminist heart that my husband will be the primary bread winner while I twiddle my thumbs doing part time work I’m overqualified for until the baby comes? Yes. But I chose to get married, I chose to go to school, I chose to move, I chose to have kids, and I chose to have them now. And this is the way it worked out. It’s not ideal, but we are thrilled that we have the chance to become parents.

It’s not a life for everyone. I’m sure there are people who will think I am an idiot and a disgrace to the feminist cause for not getting out there and using my degree before having kids. And there are others who will say (I know this because I’ve heard it!) “it doesn’t really matter; your husband has a job!”

It’s hard. I hate being unemployed. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, not to mention difficult financially. But I know it’s just a season. I am happy I finished my master’s before we had kids. I’m very excited that we are going to have a kid. And although the timing could be worse (I could have gone into labor during my defense!), it couldn’t be much worse.

But so what? I’d rather be a parent than an anthropologist/public health worker. And I can go back to work in a year or five. Sure it’ll mean starting a lot lower than I am qualified now, but it’s a sacrifice I chose to make. And while that doesn’t make things easier every single day, I know it’s the right decision in the long run. For us.

And we hope it will be the right decision for our little one too. You are loved. We are blessed.

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House Hunters

You know what gets my goat? That tuition isn’t tax deductible in Montana. Nevermind that we’ve been funneling well over half our income into the state coffers via the university system. Americorps education awards are taxable income, so we are literally paying money to the state on money that is 100% going to the state. I mean really? Really?

Granted, by the time we get the Federal refund and pay state taxes, we still come out a grand total of $10 ahead. But regardless, I’m ready to be done with shelling out cash to school. Because (not to jinx anything two weeks before my defense), graduation bells are right around the corner.

Which means we are moving on up, away from our beloved Missoula, into a brighter and better future. Literally brighter – even though we are moving just an hour and a half away, our new town gets way more sunlight than Missoula’s bowl shape allows. Although I am pretty sad to leave, after all, this is the only place in Montana I’ve ever called home, I am looking forward to a fresh start.

And most of all, a new apartment.

Our place is small. It’s nice, it’s cheap, and it works, but it is small. It’s the perfect size for the two of us, but I would love something bigger. Not because there is going to be three of us any time soon, but because I love having people over. I’m no entertainer; I’m not even much of a people person, but to me, a home should be open. One of my absolute favorite memories of college was our Thursday night potlucks my roommate and I hosted post-graduation. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend and unexpectedly found myself in Williamsburg for the summer with a few other misfits. We hosted potlucks for anyone who cared to come – the guy from my speech class, good friends from freshman year, a friend’s fiance who had just moved to town, underclassmen doing research – you name it.

It was an absolute blast. And I miss it. Our 512 sq feet have hosted more guests than you would have expect, but it would still be wonderful to have things like a guest room. Or a dinner table.

A dinner table that you don’t have to drag to the middle of the living room if you want to sit three people around it, anyway.

This longing for a new place has led to a lot of House Hunters watching. While I’m trying to keep the envy, jealousy, and materialism in check, it makes me want MORE. BETTER. NEW. But you don’t get dream homes when you’re 25. And so I can live without open concepts, granite countertops, clawfoot tubs, hardwood floors. But just for the fun of it, here’s our list of things we are going to look for in a new place. No idea if this comes off as too demanding, but I feel it’s reasonable.

Criteria

* Small house, apartment, or (most preferably) a town house/duplex
* 2-3 bedrooms - I would love to have a guest room! We technically have 2 bedrooms now, but one is being used as an office which we won’t need when we aren’t students.
* Dishwasher – I haven’t had one 3 out of the past 4 years. I want one. NOW.
* Not out of town – We only have one car and have no desire to buy another, so something within biking/busing range is essential!

Negotiables we still feel strongly about

These are things that we really want, but could compromise on if need be.

* Washer/dryer - This is more or less a criteria, BUT I would consider an apartment that has coin-op in the same building. Laundromats are out of the question.
* Pet friendly - We want to keep the options open.
Budget – There’s a little wiggle room here. The rule of thumb I hear is that no more than 30% of your income should go to housing costs. We’re going to apply that rule to one of our incomes, which I think will be plenty for this area.
* Close to one job (probably John’s) - The issue here is that I don’t have a job yet, so there’s no sense in planning a place around where I will work. However, if I get a job where I’ve been applying, we’ll work across the street from each other. And if that’s the case, we’ll carpool so it won’t really matter if we’re super close or not.

In a perfect (yet still somewhat realistic) world

* No wood panelling – Each of the three places I’ve lived in the past four years have had it. I’m sick of it.
* Two bathrooms – The whole “peeing all the time” thing I have going on can be difficult when there are two of you attempting to use the same 3 x 7 ft room.
*  Yard – Even if we don’t get a dog, having a yard would be lovely.
* Paintable – My folks got cable when I was 12, so I have been watching HGTV for 13 years and have been dying to paint a place ever since. I know most rentals don’t let you paint, so if/when we ever buy a house I’m going ALL Sherman-Williams on that place. Beware.
* Fireplace – A real wood burning one. So cozy.
Bathroom without pedestal sink – Hate trying to balance the soap on the edge of the counter and it falling off constantly.
* Garage – Really one I don’t really care about or even plan on looking for, but if we’re talking a perfect world, hey why not?

So what would your dream place look like right now?

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Day in the life: Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! Or should I say Mele Kalikimaka, but more on that later.

Jenna who writes at That Wife had the idea of having her readers document their Christmas Eves and Christmas days and share them. I liked the idea and thus decided to play along. Plus I’m laid up in bed with cramps that leave me with nothing to do but complain.

This was my first Christmas with my in laws so I will be sharing hat that was like as well as what Christmas is like for Catholics. I realize being Catholic isn’t incredibly unique but we do a few things differently that I thought would be fun to share.

In typical Jackie-fashion my camera broke and so we have instagram photos for you to enjoy of one megapixel or less. Welcome to 1999!

Christmas Eve

Most of the day we just took it easy. Shopping had been wrapped up weeks (okay days) before and the wrapping was well, also wrapped up.

We did crosswords, a weekend ritual at my in-laws.

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“In-law” sounds so cold and formal, doesn’t it? I usually just say “John’s folks” but that’s longer to write out.

I got the hankering to bake, a Christmas eve ritual with my family (that is, family-of-origin family). We usually make spritz cookies but John, his sister and I made blondie bars.

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The first caramel batch was a disaster which I think came from my suggestion to cook it on low heat. So I made butterscotch which was a bit on the rich side.

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After our baking adventure, we went to Mass. Catholics always go to church on Christmas since it is one of the holiest days of the year. Catholic “days” work similarly to the Jewish calendar – they begin at sundown. So you have the option of going on the feast day itself or the night before, which is called the “vigil” mass. Traditionally, many people go to what is called the “Midnight Mass” which used to begin at midnight but now more commonly ends then. John’s family’s tradition is to go to the children’s mass at 4:30. Although churches may have five or six masses in the weekend, you still have to get there pretty early to find a seat. This is how full it was about 45 minutes before:

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By the time mass started it was jam packed with tons of people in overflow seating.

In case you are wondering what midnight mass is like, it’s pretty similar to other Sunday masses with an extra element of festivity. We have spent the last month recognizing Advent, a season where we focus on waiting in hope, something we can all relate to no matter our religious beliefs. Christmas (which is actually a season which lasts 12 days) is the first time we sing carols or really celebrate since Advent is a bit more somber. The mass features readings on the arrival of God’s love and justice as well as, of course, the Christmas story. The children of the parish acted out the story dressed as angels and sheep and a couple of innkeepers who looked like Star Trek extras in their costumes.

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At Christmas we are basically celebrating three things: the birth of Christ, his future return, and light in the darkness. The reason we celebrate in such a dark and desolate time of the year is to remember that even the tiniest bit of light, of hope can help get us through to the spring.

When we got back from Mass we decorated the tree:

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Ate dinner.

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And played games.

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And went to bed.
Christmas Day

Our Christmas was also pretty laid back. Since we had gone to church the day before, we just woke up and unwrapped presents that morning.

Here’s the aftermath:

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John gave me a beautiful tea pot from our favorite restaurant , Caffe Dolce and a necklace. I got him a Notre Dame hat and something that hasn’t arrived yet and I’m kinda p. o.’d about it.

After gifts we had breakfast, Eggs Benedict and a German apple pancake John and I made.

Again, the aftermath:

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Then we left to drive to Helena to visit the rest of John’s family.

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After dinner and more present opening, we came home. While I missed the traditions in my family, it was nice to see some new ones. And ultimately it’s not how we wrap the present, but what is at the heart of it.

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This is the third week of Advent, the one marked by the pretty pink candle on the wreath. That means this Sunday is known as Gaudete Sunday, which means “rejoice.”

As in, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel….”

Advent is about not only waiting, but enjoying the wait. And so we decorate. But since we’re in grad school and try to live simply so we try to do it as cheap as possible.

And my goal (as is the goal of any good blogger) is to make me look awesome so you can secretly hate me.  Don’t worry though…my photography skills will always leave you feeling superior.

This is a dried apple wreath, which looks/sounds way harder than it was. I got a twig wreath from a thrift store for $2 (don’t you hate when people give directions for how to do/make something thrifty and the only reason it’s cheap is because they got something awesome at a thrift store that you’ll never find at a thrift store? Yup.), chopped up some apples and dried them in an oven and glued them to the wreath. Here’s way better directions. Though skip the cinnamon part because that makes them look dirty.

So my first venture into wreath making left me thirsting for more. So after a few hours of studying looking at Martha Stewart online, I found all sorts of fancy wreaths. Like one made out of glass ball ornaments. That we got from Goodwill. For about four bucks for all of them. Hate me yet?

So super easy, right? You read the directions – glue tops of ornaments to balls, shape wire hanger, string balls on hanger. Ta da? So  easy, right? Here’s what they don’t tell you.

1. Actually glue the tops of ornaments to the ball. Really. Because you’ll test the tops and they’ll feel fine so you’ll do the whole wreath and then half of the ornaments will snap off because when those little buggers hit up against each other they’ll twist right out of the their little wire hooks.

2. How to hang one of these. I used fishing wire and I’m sure it’ll come crashing down sometime in the middle of the night when I’ve forgotten I’d hung it on the other side of our bedroom wall. Your guess is as good as mine. I stuck a ball on top of the hook to make it look classy. Cause nothing says classy like goodwill ornaments on wood panelling.

I feel like these are too pinterest-y for me (the pics don’t do them justice). I had some organza ribbon left over from wreath 1, so I googled some things to do with organza. Basically to make these all you have to do is cut out some flower shapes from the organza and then wait for it…

wait for it…

hold it over a flame.

Yup. Crafts that involve fire are the best kind of crafts.

(P.S. I really hate “crafting” but my elbow still hurts too much for knitting. And also family – none of you are getting knitted present for Christmas).

Anyway, when you hold these little flowers over a flame they get all scrunch and crunchy and awesome. (And the organza ribbon was only $2.50.)

And this brings us lastly to our Christmas tree.

Last year we bought a little potted tree that didn’t fair to well when we visited my parents over break. We liked the idea of always having the tree from our first Christmas together, and so we thought we’d try again year two and just tell the story as if it was our first Christmas. This is a Norfolk Pine and apparently is less likely to die.

And dead Christmas decorations are definitely a kill-gaudete.

(See what  I did there?)

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Nana

Nana used to make peanut butter and chocolate buddy bars.

She gave me my first car, a powder blue Ford Taurus. Which may or may not have broken down in the middle of the road. Twice.

She listened to country-western tapes she had recorded in Florida and brought with her to Virginia, something I never could quite figure out.

She wore a green animal print jacket to our wedding.

She was, as she would say, full of piss and vinegar.

She was from coal mines and hard times.

She lived with us for many years, baking buddy bars, making Mexican casserole every Monday night, “teaching” me how to drive (which was when I drove her around because no one wanted to tell her she couldn’t anymore), telling my dad he should’ve been a professional comedian, and loving us all.

She will be missed.

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Family and Friends

So back home last week, I got the same question everyone gets when they go back home.

“So tell me about your friends. Are you making any? Who do you hang out with?”

Normal question, right? But I always feel really awkward answering it.

“Well…we hang out with each other mainly. And then we hang out with the JVs/FJVs (former Jesuit Volunteers) a fair amount. And we see John’s family a lot. We both are friendly with a few people from school, but we don’t really hang out with them.”

“Oh.”

Truth be told, we don’t have a ton of friends. And quite a few of the ones we do have are moving away/have recently moved away this summer! Part of me feels a little self-conscious about this. We don’t have roommates (besides each other) like my sisters do. One of my friends back home is always buzzing about this friend or that, this new guy she met, etc. And really – our circle is pretty small.

It’s not “I just moved to a new city” small. We know people through work and school. I run into people I know at the grocery store. We go to parties, barbecues, potlucks occasionally. But we don’t have a “hey let’s get the gang together for the usual this Friday” or anything like that.

And while that would be great, to be honest, I’m pretty okay with where we are. We’re enjoying figuring out our new married life out together, and after two years of JVC, it’s nice to have some peace and quiet. I keep in pretty good contact with a few friends from college and JVC. The kindergartners who live in our apartment complex are always really excited to throw a frisbee around with us. And really, we hang out with family a lot.

What did we do for Christmas break? Flew home to visit my folks and then to get out of the house, drove to N.C. to visit my grandparents. What about Spring Break? Salt Lake City by ourselves, LA to see an FJV housemate, and San Diego to see John’s aunt, uncle, and cousin. What’d we do for Memorial Day ?  Okay, well John worked but the day before we stayed up at his family’s cabin. With his family. And some snow. Today – John’s off to a good-bye party for his Uncle who is about to take his solemn vows with the Carmelites.

So maybe we’re lame for not having a Friends or How I Met Your Mother style group of friends. (And don’t get me wrong, one day I’d like to have that). But we’re happy spending our breaks visiting family and old roommates. It may not be the most glamorous lifestyle, but the truth is – its hard to meet people after college. But we have a great group of people we enjoy and can rely on. Even if we’re related to most of them. And did the same volunteer program as the rest. No one is going to base a TV show around our fab 20-something lives, but that’s fine by me.

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Graduating

So like I mentioned earlier, I was in Virginia last week for my little sister’s graduation. Really, it was a whirlwind of a trip as I managed to squeeze in my college roommate and friend & aunt and uncle in D.C. in addition to going down to Charlottesville.

It was a little crazy to watch my sister graduate. I remember when I left for JVC, she had just finished her first year at UVA. I felt a little guilty about moving across the country for a year, but I remember thinking that when I came back, she’d still have 2 years of school left so it’s not like it was really that long. Turns out life plans changed (don’t they always?) and I’m still living out west. Wild, wild west.

My sis is the only one of us to go to UVA. My older sister and I went to William and Mary. Of course there was a bit of sisterly drama – I had wanted to go to W&M since I was 8 (although around 10th grade I became a hardcore Notre Dame fan until they wait listed me. Jerks.) I was pre-empted. UVA is the unofficial rivalry of W&M. Though, to be honest, people at UVA don’t think there is much of a rivalry. On the other hand, people at UVA really like to talk about how they don’t have a rivalry with W&M. Kinda like when your friend says she really doesn’t care if you date her ex. Yeah right. But give us W&M kids a break – we just want someone to  be rivals with! No one will play with us. Anyway – we were all really proud of her from graduating from such a fine school (founded by Thomas Jefferson, don’t cha know. And since this post is about my sister’s school, I won’t even mention that he went to William and Mary.)

Little known fact about me – I broke up with my ex of four years the night before graduation. All those black robes brought back some bad memories. I had mono at my high school graduation, so that wasn’t that fun either. Plus I had to give a salutatorian speech which I didn’t ask anyone to edit beforehand, and it bombed hardcore.

So I’m hoping that next year (and I’m just hoping it is next year) when I graduate from grad school the pomp and circumstance will be a little more enjoyable. Though I don’t really care about graduating from grad school as much. It just isn’t the same life-turning point that high school and college are.

But nevertheless, it will bring some new and exciting changes, and hopefully my first full-time full salaried job since college.

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