Sunday, November 24, 2013

The wonders of America

As if to reinforce the blog I just posted about how America "works," I just received this notice from the county department of public works: 

Due to the unusual dryness of the leaves (which makes them extremely brittle) we have received many reports of excessive leaf dust on cars, sidewalks and porches following our vacuum collection. We have tried different methods to reduce the amount of dust generated but have had limited success. Our region has not received enough rainfall to keep the leaves moist, which reduces the amount of leaf dust. We understand that this condition can be inconvenient. To assist residents we will dispatch a worker with a leaf blower to blow the leaf dust off those areas. The number to call is240 777-7623.

Umm.... apparently my fellow neighbors have actually complained about this dust (caused by the *free* leaf collection)?  And because of that, the county will come blow leaf dust off of my car, porch and sidewalk, also at no cost (except the taxes I already pay, of course)?  Seriously?  Because of no reason other than we've had so little rain that the leaves are too brittle?   

America truly is a wondrous place.  

What do I like best?

A friend I hadn't seen in about six years since SAIS graduation asked me that at a party last night.  What do I like best about being back in the US?

Hard to answer - there are so many things to like: being near family, familiar foods, good and safe quality meat and produce, knowing what to expect (mostly) when I walk into a store or restaurant, Target, access to top quality health care (and not having to wonder at the start of a fever if its just a flu or something I've never heard of before), trash cleaned and dumped in dumps I've never seen ... the list goes on of things I didn't really appreciate about how America "works" behind the scenes that, in effect, make life here really very comfortable.

All of that stuff, though (except for proximity to family) we figured out how to deal with or make a work around.  E.g., in India we cooked or pealed all our food ... or used bleach if we really wanted something raw.  In the Philippines, we never went out on Friday night, knowing traffic was 100% guaranteed to be miserable.

What I really appreciate here, though, that we never found overseas - or figured out how to create a work-around - is our neighborhood church.  We did find some churches overseas, but generally they were either a little old and fuddy-duddy or more on the "contemporary" service side.  A run of the mill, middle road, Episcopal/Presbyterian/Methodist with young families and old grandparents a like remained a pipe dream.  Our church here, though, has age-appropriate themes at Sunday School -- and we know Sunday School will be on every week.  Sure, the church nursery attendant put Ian's diaper on backwards today, but he's always happy and safe when we pick him up.  Nice coffee service afterwards.  Usually at least one social event each month that we're interested in.

And - best of all - a great music program for the kids.  Every Tuesday Wm comes home from music class in the absolute best mood of the entire week.  Today, he played his chimes and followed the music pretty much by himself.  Patch is the youngest in his class, but he's catching on.

A small email storm erupted last week when the choir director opened a debate for which Christmas Eve service the kids should perform at.  Apparently, our church has always just had two services (family at 5 and candlelight at 11).  This year, the rector was thinking about changing it to 3, 5:30 and 11 ... so the suggestion was that the two little kid choirs (ages 4 - grade 2) could be at 3, the other kids at 5:30, and adult choir at 11.  Now, for anyone whose been part of a church with entrenched interests - and traditions - you can imagine what a furor this started!

After a bit, I just couldn't help myself and chimed in in the minority (a 3pm service with three kids 6 and under sounds great - plenty of time to come home, have dinner, change into pjs and put out cookies for Santa).  I couldn't resist ending my note, though, that after four Christmases with either no service or something that wasn't quite our "usual," we really were just happy to have *any* service geared towards kids with familiar hymns.

Bringing me to the conclusion that while daily life routines can be dropped, adjusted or modified (as long as you keep the right attitude), creating a replacement community is near impossible.  The best we can hope for is that we land next in a place with one - and that we can in some small way contribute to strengthening it while we're there.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Culture is Will

Greg took the plunge to work on the "culture" worksheet for Wm's homework this week.  The results follow:

"What do you like to eat with your family"
We lik to eat Filupeeno food and Umerikin food
(Translation: We like to eat Philippine food and American food)

"What languages do you and your family speak?"
We speak inlish and tgalug
(Translation: We speak English and Tagalog)

"What holidays do you celebrate with your family?"
We celebrate umeerukin.
(Translation: We celebrate American)

"What do you like to do with your family?"
Wm did not want to answer this, so he wrote:
I dot no wut we do on the weekens.
(Translation: I don't know what we do on the weekends)

My Culture Is: __________
His answer?  Will.

Pretty good, actually. His culture will always be what he wants to make it, so saying his culture is himself is fairly insightful.  For the record, Greg and I do not eat Philippine food here nor do we speak Tagalog... so obviously a lot of adobo and sweet spaghetti with hotdogs being served when we're not home.  No complaints, but always interesting to indirectly hear what happens when I'm not around and neither Lea nor Wm are feeding me the answer they think I am expecting!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Adventures (or lack thereof)

Wm asked me today that while "living in America is pretty nice, when are we going to live in a weird city again and have some more adventures?"

This was not unprompted - last night he had a disaster of a temper tantrum, which involved throwing all the books from his shelf all around his room.  (In true Wm fashion, after a sudden and severe outburst, after he calmed down it was over and he went to bed just fine.  The damage on me, however, was a bit longer lasting).  So, this morning, a bit removed from the incident, we calmly sorted through the books, putting them nicely on the shelves, Dr Suess together, Golden Books together, Super Hero books together, "mama's favorites" together (ie, classic picture books) -- and we had a small section with books from India and Manila.

He looked at a book we have about Krishna and the Yamarljuna Trees, and then asked about moving.  Which has had me thinking about two things all day.

First - I'm happy Wm has embraced and internalized moving, since he doesn't really have a choice in the matter.  And I'm supper happy he thinks going to a new city will bring adventures and is something to look forward to.  I know plenty of parents in my line of work whose kids dread moving.  Maybe that will be Wm some day (or Patch or Ian), but not for now.

Second - I'm kind of sorry we haven't been on any adventures in America.  Obviously it's a huge country with lots of interesting places to see and adventures to be had.  But, the truth is, Greg and I are a little tired of adventures.  We kind of like having Saturday and Sunday to just hang around our house, walk to church, walk to the park to play, and not venture very far.  We didn't even want to go out for dinner tonight!

We haven't made it to New York, to Boston, to New Hampshire.  Except for two trips up to visit my grandpa in PA, we haven't left the DC metro area since we landed her May 20.  The lack of travel is unprecedented for us!  And I don't think either of us have missed it, though apparently this calm, normal life is not quite exciting enough for Wm.

But, the kid will just have to wait.  We've already planed for family to come to us at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and weekends in November/December are usually busy even when we're overseas.  Not to mention, with at least one kid usually napping between 10 and 3, an adventure is a bit difficult to plan.

Two years, minimum (with 5 months gone), to re-charge ... and then to the next adventure!