Friday, January 31, 2014

And now it's time to say goodbye...

Today, I walked in my office building as an employee for the last time. I handed over my company property and walked out feeling a little bit untethered. Like I do so often, I wished that I could take a picture with my eyes, to capture things exactly how I see and feel them. I tried to commit every detail to memory, or at least to my phone's camera roll. I wanted to save the scene for later, when I wanted to visit it again, but needed to move through the moment quickly before I broke down in tears. I made it to my car before the ugly crying started. 

I hate leaving a place that I know so well, thinking, "this will be the last time I ever see this view from this perspective", as someone who belonged. I know myself, and it hurts me a little to return to places where I've belonged when I don't belong any more, after I've moved along.

It's a hard place to leave. I am telling myself that I'm lucky that I had the chance to do that and now I have the chance to do this, too. 

And it's been wonderful so far. At home, with my sweet girls, I don't miss the office routine at all. 

January was a month of transition, I was splitting my time between organizing my work files and organizing our house. There's still a bit to do but the house, and my heart, feel a bit lighter, more open. Ready for this new life. 

So here it goes!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Museum Free-For-All

On Saturday, we took advantage of SoCal's ninth annual "Museums Free-For-All" and visited LACMA for the first time! I've been wanting to see Urban Light forever (please don't ask me why it took so long), and we thought free admission would be a nice, low-key way to introduce Alice to a serious art museum.

We slept in and still left on time and got down there right around opening. We headed straight for Urban Light, while the kids still had clean clothes and cheerful smiles.

 I've seen the installation in plenty of photos and knew that I would love it in person, and of course I did, immediately. I don't think I have any particular affinity for street lamps, I don't know if it's the ornamentation or just the repetition, but the collection makes a magical vignette in the busy Miracle Mile museum complex.

In the daylight, it's more like an urban forest. Alice and Ivy were just as delighted as I was and had a grand time running between the rows of lamp posts.

 I busted my knee on a light while taking photos, so we made our way into the museum before it swelled up or stopped working...
Jon wanted to see the German Expressionism, so we headed for the Ahmanson building and discovered the Jesús Rafael Soto sculpture, Penetrabile (which I cannot find anywhere on the LACMA site) just outside the entrance. Alice was immediately enthalled by the 2,000+ strands of flexible, yellow plastic tubing suspended from above. 

It was like walking through sunshine-colored spaghetti. Ivy was watching from her stroller on the perimeter, mesmerized by the sweeping, swaying strands, so Jon pushed her through as well.  

Inside the Ahmanson building, we ducked into the first room off the front doors, and discovered the Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: The Golem and it's Avatars. Projected on the wall directly across from the exhibit's entrance was a black and white film from 1920, Der Golem: Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World) - Paul Wegener.

Alice was fixated. Jon thinks it was just because it was a movie, but I think she's got a little bit of a dark edge. She seems to be drawn to books and movies and images that make her a little uncomfortable, whether it's because she needs to conquer them or she just likes the danger in her otherwise very safe and cautious existence, I'm not sure... She wanted to stay there and continue watching the movie, but the Golem was working on sexually assaulting a young woman and then dragging her off by the hair after setting the room ablaze. Plus, Ivy was getting cranky, so we moved it along.

We saw plenty of abstract, impressionism, and expressionism, and Kandinsky. I was surprised by how interested Alice was. I kept asking her what she saw in each painting, what she thought it was, but she would shyly demur and bury her head in my neck. She seemed much more interested when I explained the title of the piece and then tried to puzzle out what the title meant, and talked about the art. She kept pointing out specific things she wanted to see from across the rooms. She was particularly curious about a "train," which turned out to be a tea set from 1922 Vienna. 

I wish we'd made it to the third floor, with the Renaissance and 18th century European art. I think Alice would really enjoy that. Or not. Maybe I just want to share my enjoyment with her, it tends to be my favorite genre.

Anyway, after lunch at the cafe, we stopped into the Pavilion for Japanese Art. Many of the exhibits were closed, so we perused the third floor gallery. There were some beautiful pieces there; an incredibly old vessel (from 3000-2000 B.C.!), an amazing samurai costume, a gorgeous stationery and calligraphy box. The building was actually Jon's favorite attraction that day. It's a really cool mix of mid-century modern and Japanese aesthetics. 

After we saw the Japanese art, we stopped by the Boone Children's Gallery to do some brush painting. Ivy had fallen asleep, so she slept in her stroller to the soothing music and gentle conversation while Alice and I painted.

We walked past the spaghetti again in our search for a bathroom and some coffee, and Alice wanted to play some more. She ended up just rolling around on the ground, though.
We took a walk outside, past Alexander Calder's Three Quintains (Hello Girls) and reflection pond, and then down to the La Brea Tar Pits. One of these days, we'll visit the Page Museum there, but Alice needed to run around and stretch her legs. She and Jon ran up and down the grassy hill there and we finally had to drag her away. We finished walking through the park and saw the excavation site, where archeologists (volunteers?) are digging out all kinds of amazing fossils. And then we made our way to see Levitated Mass.

There was a small gaggle of teenaged girls enjoying the exhibit when we arrived by laying on the ground directly under it. So of course, that's how Alice thought one was supposed to enjoy this installation. 

It was enormous, and was a definitive end to the day. We were there a lot longer than we expected to be and the girls were more interested and engaged than we anticipated. I want to make museum visits a regular occasion for them both!

Museums Free-For-All is a great way to check out a new museum, I'll definitely make sure we participate next year, too! And maybe some day, the girls will be old enough to catch the Urban Light exhibit at night time...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year, New Job

Working from home.
I'm starting the new year with a new job. I'm making a career change and leaving the office behind (for now, anyway) to take over the full-time child care duties at home. That's right, I am officially going to be a stay-at-home mom (known on the interwebs as a "SAHM"). Yesterday was the first day of my month-long transition from working mom to full-time mom.

Jon's been holding down the fort since my maternity leave ended when Alice was four months old. He was working from home full-time, starting his day at 4am to put in half his hours before I left for work. He would finish his day while Alice napped or after she was in bed for the night, often working plenty of extra time on freelance jobs as well. Now with two kids at different ages, who demand LOTS of attention - and even more freelance work - it's just became too much for him to do on his own.

As my last project at work drew to a close, we kept talking about whether we could make the finances work with a single provider's income. Jon crunched lots of numbers and made spreadsheets with all kinds of different, variable scenarios. In the end, we decided that the benefits would outweigh any tight budgeting, and we took the plunge once my project was pretty well wrapped up. 

During January, I am working to tie up all the loose ends at work and hand off my role to someone else. I am super thankful to be able to do much of this work from home while getting into the swing of the stay-at-home schedule. The photo above is what that looked like today, while Alice was in school and Ivy slept. 

Jon will still be working from home full-time. We're working out a new schedule so he can put in plenty of hours on his work but also spend time with us and participate in activities and outings, and even give me a break (or a nap)! We're also arranging time in the evening where we can both work after the kids are asleep. I am planning to use that time to blog more and to finally indulge in more creative ventures that, in addition to being personally fulfilling, can hopefully lead to some fun blogable material and possibly even a side income. 

I've already made a daily/weekly/bi-weekly/monthly cleaning schedule and am tackling some of the house projects that have been lingering on my to-do list. It's only been two days, but my kitchen and bathroom are clean and I cleared out a big chunk of my closet and have a big bag of clothes ready to donate. There are so many things in our house that have been driving me crazy for years that I'm thrilled to have even a few minutes each day to chip away at them. I want to hit that stuff hard right off the bat to get this new year and new gig started on a good foot. 

Honestly, I never planned or particularly wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I have always loved working. I did quite a bit of babysitting in my early teens, and was filling out job applications as soon as I turned 15. I've always worked and always expected to. Especially living where I have in California, I always expected that I would have to work in order to afford a place to live and a family. And that was the case until just very recently. When I went on maternity leave, both times, people would ask if I was planning to come back to work and I would always answer that if I wanted to keep living in my house, I had to come back.

Once I got pregnant and had Alice though, I understood better. Wanting and needing to go back to work meant needing to find a child-care solution, which amounted to nearly 25%-30% of my income. And the thought of leaving such a little baby with someone else made my heart hurt. It was easier to go back to work knowing that Alice and Ivy were home with their dad, but I hated that he was getting so much great time with him while I was missing all the little things.

I am thrilled that this opportunity is even possible and am so grateful that I'll get to spend so much time with our girls. I'm so looking forward to art projects and park trips and zoo and museum visits, and getting more involved with Alice's classroom. I can't wait to see Alice and Ivy's relationship grow, and to have so much more time to help nurture them into close and loving sisters. I am looking forward to experiencing the many sweet and simple day-to-day moments that I have been missing. 

At work, I'd been feeling more and more like I didn't have enough time or energy to be a good and present wife and mother. I am trying to be very intentional to make the most of this time I now have to keep the house clean and comfortable, and to make our day run smoothly so we have the time and energy to enjoy each other.

I'm trying not to get too ambitious, but I'm looking at this as a bit of a home economics experiment. In having the time to pay proper attention to our meal plan and budget, and our home, I'm hoping that I'll be able to be more strategic about our shopping and spending instead of relying on unhealthy quick-fixes as we have been more and more. I think I'll actually have time to plan and plant the garden that I've been dreaming of since we moved in, and have the time to tend it, instead of having to pay someone else for so much of the food we eat. 

I hope to update here more regularly, including updates on the home-ec experiment and playing catch up with some posts and photos from last year! 

Here's hoping for a great 2014 with lots of family time and fresh starts!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

This Christmas - 2013

We've been awfully busy this year but we tried to jump right into the Christmas season after Thanksgiving. I took a few days off in the first week of December and we took advantage with a bunch of fun Christmas activities. 

We went to Disneyland for a full day of Disneyland Christmas fun, including seeing Olaf in the new World of Color Winter Dreams show. 

Alice got her first autograph book after seeing some other kids with one, so she was very keen to have everyone sign it.

 This year, Alice was more willing to sit with Santa and had a good chat with him.

 Ivy wasn't too sure, but she was pretty willing to give it a try.

 Ivy was REALLY into meeting all the friends. Alice was busy getting autographs, but Ivy had some serious one-on-ones with everyone.

 And we ate at Ivy's favorite all-you-can eat BBQ restaurant, which was all decked out for the holidays - complete with a cowboy couple singing country Christmas tunes.

 Bugsy stuffed herself and then passed out in her cozy bear suit.

 We headed to California Adventure in the afternoon and played in Cars Land until it was time for World of Color. Alice spent a good long time playing with these hippy beads (while we finished a beer!).

The next day, we checked out our town's new outdoor ice rink, up for the holidays. Alice was super excited for her first ice skating adventure, especially when she saw that she could ride on a seal!
Ivy really wanted to get out there and play, too, but she loved seeing Alice come by and say hello. 

Alice loved zooming around the ice with Jon, who is kind of unnaturally good at ice skating for a guy who grew up in Orange County!

Alice even wanted to get up and try skating on her own. I asked the lovely older woman supervising the session for a few tips on teaching such a little one, since I could see she had plenty of skating experience. She helped Alice learn to march and held her other hand while we gave it a try. And then for the rest of the session, Alice wanted to alternate between riding on the seal and pushing it, or holding our hands. She had pretty wobbly spaghetti legs, but I was impressed that she kept wanting to try it. It's the only thing I've ever seen her try (repeatedly, no less) that was beyond her ability. It helps that Anna and Elsa ice skate in Frozen, Alice wants to be just like them!

And then we headed over to pick out Ivy's first Christmas tree!

Last year, Alice was in love with the teeny tiny trees at the tree farm. So this year, we found the tiniest tree we could and fit it up on our console table in the kitchen. I let Alice pick out some fancy ornaments for it and she had a great time decorating her tree just the way she wanted it.
And then that weekend, I took Alice for a very special mother/daughter date that I hope will become a tradition. The LA Ballet was performing The Nutcracker at a lovely restored theater nearby. With relatively cheap tickets, I thought it would be a great intro for both Alice and myself - I'd never seen it, myself!

Alice was very well-behaved (much better than the older kids writhing in the aisles next to us) and really enjoyed the show. She got a little antsy in the second act when she kept telling me she was thirsty, but I was able to hold her off with a lollipop. Good thing the second act was shorter than the first!

Afterwards, the young leads were greeting fans in the lobby. I had a tough time getting a photo with Alice because the older girls (and their mothers!) kept pushing her out of the way. Poor thing.
Near Christmas, we put the girls in the car and drove around to look at Christmas lights. There are a couple of houses in our neighborhood who try to outdo each other with front yards chock full of Christmas cheer. Ivy loved all the lights.

On Christmas Eve, we finally got around to baking some cookies so we could leave some out for Santa!
And we got to church a few minutes early with just enough time to take a nice photo with the girls in their Christmas dresses.

After church, Alice and Ivy got to open their new Christmas jammies and enjoy a cookie and a story before tucking in to wait for Santa.
And they were in luck! Santa brought a fun stacker and a sweet fox for Ivy, and a Minnie Mouse kitty carrier vet set for Alice, along with the snow globe she asked for.
And some new train track and a monorail car with people! Lucky girl!

A hello kitty sleep mask for napping, natch.

And for mama? A "What Does the Fox Say" picture book, of course! I loved it. 

A successful Christmas!

We spent the day after Christmas with Jon's parents, and then headed up to my parents' for Christmas #3!

I hope you all had very merry holidays, and that you got just what you were wishing for.