Motherhood here and there

Thursday, July 25, 2013

For four years, we lived next door to a family from Norway, and they became some of our closest friends. Our children were young, with a 7-year-old, a not-yet-born, and everything in between. The kids raced between houses, had their first sleepovers, and started preschool and elementary school together. We celebrated Norwegian holidays with them, and they went trick-or-treating and to Fourth of July parades with us.

Audrey (the mom) and I spent hours talking on their driveway, and often those conversations were about life in the United States vs. their home in Norway. Audrey is Scottish, married to a Norwegian, and her ability to adjust to other cultures seemed almost effortless. Her insights into life both here and there fascinated me.

Eventually our friends moved back to Norway, and we miss them. I thought of Audrey, her sweet, Americanized kids, and all our conversations on the driveway, when I read the first of a series on one of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo. For the series, called Motherhood Around the World, blogger Joanna Goddard interviews American mothers about their impressions of raising children in a foreign country. First up was Norway (coincidentally), and last Monday was Japan. You can find both here.

I've loved reading about the differences these mothers have encountered living overseas. But I've also loved the sameness. For example, Joanna interviewed Yoko Inoue, a photographer who grew up in Japan but lived in the United States for 17 years before moving back with her American husband and son. She talks about children walking to school: "As parents [in Japan] we have to make sure kids always say greetings 'with big voice! Good morning!' No mumbling or looking down. If you don't, it's considered so rude!"

I smiled when I read this. "Remember to look the person in the eye," I'm constantly telling my children. "Use a good, strong voice" (though I'm going to start using the simpler instruction, "With big voice!"). Very Japanese of me, I now know.

This photo is not really related to the post other than reminding me of when she was 7.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Last night a friend asked me how long I had been married, and I couldn't remember. I knew it was either 15 or 16 years, either 1996 or 1997 but not which one. I was fairly certain my husband wouldn't know, either. It wasn't until I sat down later with a calculator that I figured it out. My other option would have been to dig up our wedding invitation.

One of the things I do remember about that time is going to wedding after wedding after wedding. It seemed as though there was one every weekend, usually requiring road trips, hotel rooms, pedicures, new dresses, and reunions with friends. All those weddings took a bit of effort but were so worth it. They were that much fun.

After the wedding stage came the non-wedding stage, where I remain today. The non-wedding stage consists of one wedding every five years or so, if I'm lucky. Definitely not enough. Not enough beautiful brides and beautiful dresses; earnest, clean groomsmen; scene-stealing flower girls; moments that make you cry and many that make you laugh; that feeling of two people starting out on a great adventure.

I got a little bit of a wedding fix last night when I read C Magazine's fall wedding issue. I loved seeing the dresses, the table settings, the flowers, the brides. I was intrigued by an article about Greg Kalamar, an artist from Los Angeles who paints scenes from people's wedding celebrations in the likeness of a Degas or Monet painting. The image below is a painting he did of a reception inside San Francisco's Ferry Building.

Meanwhile, looking forward to my next wedding invitation. I'll try to be patient.

(All images from C California Style Magazine)

Finding the way there

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A friend dropped a book off on my doorstep yesterday morning with a note saying how much she liked it. My computer was moving slowly, so as I sat and waited, I read the author's note at the beginning of the book. And there I came across a perfect description of my life, right down to the detail about the author's sister:

"A hopeless navigator, I regularly got lost trying to find birthday parties and doctors' offices, exiting the highway at the wrong place and driving around for ten minutes without recognizing anything. After a while my children would begin shouting from the backseat, 'You're lost, aren't you? You're lost again! Call Aunt Bridget!' My sister, Bridget, would navigate me back to our town after I called her on my cellphone, my heart pounding with the stress of being late, being a wretched driver, risking a citation, being lost."

This is me. I remember driving a carful of girls to a birthday party and becoming utterly lost with no idea where to go next. The GPS was no help because apparently - as I remember - there there two streets with the same name in the same town. I called my sister, trying to sound calm for the listening ears in the backseat, and sure enough, she got us there.

I love the author's description of this state of being - being late, being a wretched driver, being lost. I once told my children I don't panic when I'm lost because I'm so accustomed to it, but that's not true. Being lost in a car is a terrible feeling. The GPS (usually) helps, to be sure. And of course my sister.

The book, by the way, is Paris in Love by Eloisa James. It's about the author's decision to take a sabbatical from her job, sell her house, and move with her family to Paris, where she continues to get lost, but this time on foot and - most important - with much greater pleasure.

'Wet foot, dry foot. Low foot, high foot...' *

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I won't tell you too much about my feet, because certainly no one needs to know that. I'll only say they're nothing like my 8-year-old's feet, or even my older children's, though I become less and less familiar with theirs as the years pass. But my 8-year-old still needs me to trim her nails, so I know those feet well. They're soft and smooth and wash off quickly and easily with soap and water, even when she has spent the large part of her day outside barefoot.

Part of the problem with my feet stems from my love of flip-flops. The fact that I wear flip-flops almost all the time in summer, even to walk the dog in the woods, certainly doesn't help. When my feet are grimy after a walk, they don't wash off quickly and easily with soap and water. So I was intrigued when I came across a recipe on Pinterest for a foot scrub and thought I'd try. It's so simple, with just two ingredients: liquid soap and granulated sugar. To make, pour half a cup or so of sugar into a bowl and mix with liquid soap until goopy. Then, using your fingers, rub the mixture all over your feet, concentrating on heels and toes, and rinse.

That's it. And the best part is, it works. It's the sort of DIY scrub my 13-year-old loves. After using it a few times and ending up with fairly clean, softer-than-when-I-started feet (though still not 8-year-old feet), I'm loving it, too.

*Dr. Seuss

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