Wednesday, June 17, 2009

This is Home

It's just over a year since we returned from Denmark. After a months of diligent research, it seemed the only things that changed while we were gone were the sudden appearance of Wal-Mart Marketplaces and the sprouting of RedBox.

Many of my European habits are fading away - I don't walk nearly as much, I don't feel quite as weird about driving everywhere, I've become accustom to living in a county that doesn't sell alcohol and I've slid easily back into the "hurry up" American culture. Though some habits die hard: I still prefer good beer over cheap beer, I light candles around the house and I really like drinking sparkling water even though it's an incredibly pretentious habit here.

This spring, instead of going to see the baby swans, we saw the wobbly legged colts chasing their mothers in wide green fields of bluegrass. We went to the zoo instead of Tivoli. And to the pool instead of the beach.

But this is home.

And now I have a new blog home over here. I hope you'll join me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Retrospective: On Stay-at-Home Motherhood

The conclusion of our adventures in Denmark marked the “equality point” of Michael’s and my ventures as primary caregivers of our children. Michael was home with John for ten months after my maternity leave and I was the stay-at-home parent for our ten-month stint in Copenhagen. I thought of our trip as a chance to “try on” being a stay-at-home parent and, as you’ve read, its had it’s ups and downs.

I very clearly remember the moment when the glow of staying home wore off. On this particular day I tripped and fell quite ungracefully on the bus, experienced a heavy dose of ‘Mom guilt’ from a well-meaning acquaintance, locked John and myself out of the apartment, thought I'd lost our digital camera, cried openly for a whole city block over it until I realized the camera was in the back pocket of the stroller, and then was pooped on by a rather large bird. At dinner that night every time John would accidentally drop food on the floor, I felt like crying. Later I consoled myself by going to the mall, child and stroller-free, to ride up and down the escalator, and it was then I knew the honeymoon was over.

I spent the majority of this year trying to negotiate a new identity of sorts for myself. So much had to change – even down to things like my "personal fashion concept" – business casual is great for the professional world but not so much for Mother World. The success of my day was measured in the cleanliness of my apartment, the number of tantrums my toddler had and if I managed to get both children to nap at the same time when it was once measured in things more tangible and permanent. I discovered to my chagrin that new acquaintance’s initial impression of me was that I was "just a mom" when I still thought of myself as a working professional. And I came to hate how trivial and dismissive the word "mom" or especially "mommy" seemed when applied as a label. But I’ve slowly been learning how to find my way through all of this; allowing myself a little time away to exercise some of the skill sets I particularly enjoyed in my professional life, getting enough sleep at night, and learning to be as confident in myself as a primary caregiver as I was as a professional.

At the core though I’m both surprised and not surprised to find that I genuinely like my children and actually enjoy seeing their small selves grow and blossom up close on a daily basis. I get lots of little comments about how close they are in age and how energetic John is, all with an undercurrent of "how-in-the-world-do-you-survive-I-would-never-want-to-live-your-life." But I am not sorry and I don’t pity myself. I love that John already doesn’t remember a time when there wasn’t James, and even now you can see a bond of brotherhood between them. They’re both energetic but it’s a focused energy that is full of infectious enthusiasm.

This coming year I’ll be back for another round of staying at home. There are many reasons why this makes sense – lack of affordable quality childcare on short notice and possibly only being in our new home for one year among other reasons. And while I have persistent internal questions about whether I’m being a good model of womanhood for my sons and as we face certain negative financial implications of my not working full time, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Monday, July 7, 2008


We've been staying with my parents since returning to the States. Saturday we left for Texas to visit Michael's family for most the month of July. We strategically planned it so the first leg of the journey was nap time, and the last half of the journey would be during the kid's bedtime. And for the most part everything went according to plan. We were delayed a bit when John got car sick about an hour after dinner, and another delay when we had to stop to assuage James who is cutting his first tooth. Early Sunday morning - our 6th anniversary - found us at a Shell station somewhere in Arkansas; nursing a baby in the car, air smelling like sulfur, my teeth with that gross road trip fuzziness, splitting a pint of Blue Bell ice cream with the man who is so much a part of me that I can barely remember what life was like before there was us.

I chiseled out a bite of ice cream with my flimsy plastic spork, James nursing away, smiling at the memory of the two young kids that we were that day.

"Here's to us."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Retrospective: On Repatriating

We returned to the Homeland three weeks ago today. We were only gone for 10 months but those months were packed with Large Life Events, let alone the challenges of learning to navigate a new country and culture. I prepped myself for our return to our old community by reminding myself that it wouldn’t be the same as when we left.

It feels exactly the same. Down to the same songs playing on the radio.

I feel a little like a time traveler who had spent a year away on a crazy adventure, returning to the day after she left and is shocked to find things haven’t changed as much as she has changed.

Don’t get me wrong. There is something profoundly comfortable in the familiarity of coming home. After a year of feeling mildly off balance and somewhat self-conscious every time I stepped onto the Copenhagen streets, it’s amazing being able to read a menu with ease and not have to start every conversation with an apology for only speaking English.

But I’m also been walloped over the head by certain aspects of America that never really noticed before. Like we drive everywhere. And I get that we’re a vast, VAST country that had never had the need to consider space issues – there is little stopping us from continuing to build out. But while we’re at it, can’t we put in a few sidewalks? While in Copenhagen I got in the habit of walking and I since arriving home I get the itch to take a long walk each day. This weekend I was out doing some shopping at one of our sprawling American strip malls and since I had some time to kill I decided to save a little of my $3.93 per gallon gas and walk across the better part of Hamburg to another store. That’s when I realized there were no sidewalks or cross walks. To be fair, this particular location is the most poorly conceived strip mall ever. I will never forget getting stuck in that parking lot for 45 long minutes one December weekend, slowly feeling the Christmas spirit ooze out of me. But still.

In setting myself up to expect everything to be different I believe that I somehow expected that “America” a nation/culture/people at large would have changed as much as I have over this past year. As if it somehow would have taken steps to put in significant bike lanes and produce a truly affordable hybrid SUV. That it would have given up Coke and chips and ice cream because it’s too expensive to buy, and hang it’s laundry outside because it was just ridiculous to pay $4 to dry one load too.

We’re home. It’s really, really great. But it feels profoundly different. And the same.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Poor John. In Denmark we would let him play with our keys when we returned from a trip out. All the doors in our little flat had key holes and he could entertain himself for about a half hour pretending to unlock doors.

And then we arrived in America and suddenly key rings included rubbery buttons that were just perfect for chubby little toddler fingers – as John discovered early one morning when he climbed silently out of his Pack ‘n’ Play at 6:00am.

A loud car alarm went off. My Dad got up to investigate a minute or so later and found John standing at the door, keys in hand, brow furrowed with concern.

“HONK,” John said imitating this new noise that was just introducing itself into his Toddler World. “HONK. HONK.”

Now his old fun toy is off limits. Poor John.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Ode to Apple

Our laptop is taking a week-long vacation at a nearby Apple Store for a few hardware and cosmetic concerns. This is all being done for free since my beloved MacBook is still under warranty. I love Apple - especially their great service.

I've been stewing over a few retrospectives that I hope to post here when MacBook is safely home again. (Look out. She's going to get all "deep" and "philosophical.")

Until then.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Photo Friday

At the Lock and Key
Originally uploaded by TilleyShots