Archive | family

#everlyabroad (entries from my journal 2)

blog photo 1

April 6, 2015

I am writing this by candlelight, on a boat, in a canal and I’m eating butterscotch chocolate while I do.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

Well, even though everything I described is true, our circumstances aren’t quite romantic. We are on a houseboat in Amsterdam and all was going well until Daddy pulled a chain in the bathroom which turned off most of our electricity. (I believe he was looking for a light!) It also set off a very loud, high-pitched alarm. That was about an hour ago and we have yet to remedy the situation.

Therefore, we have no heat, very little light and permanently ringing ears. After several phone calls, we got a hold of Alexander, bicycle repairman who offered his assistance. Most sadly of all–Alexander is neither handsome or jolly. He just arrived on his “moto,” cigarette in hand. I don’t think he’ll be much help with the (missing) key to the breaker box…

Which brings us back to me, sitting in the captain’s quarters, eating butterscotch chocolate and writing by candlelight. It’s a good thing we bought this Amsterdam cigarette lighter at the gift shop today! Since I do not plan on going to bed until we are rid of both Alexander and this awful noise, I might as well this this opportunity to give an account of our day.

We woke up in our cozy, modern apartment around nine o’clock again and packed up, cleaned up and checked out. We picked up our backpacks and walked out, across the canal and to the tram stop. We then took a long series of trams to Pancake Corner, where we got coffee and pancakes (all mediocre.) From there we hopped on the tram again and found our way to the rent-a-bike and rent-a-boat office and got our houseboat key.

A short walk from there, we found our new home (The Agada) and hopped aboard, happy to finally unload our backs. We got settled in (it’s quite quirk and quaint and OLD,) and then headed back into town on foot (no luggage!!!) and in the direction of the Rijks Museum. On our way, however, we decided we really didn’t have time to explore all the great Dutch masters this afternoon, so instead we popped into some souvenir shops (score!) and then a nice little pizzeria where we had pasta, gnocchi and grilled chicken. After that, we caught a short tram to Rembrandt Plein to resist the huge, wonderful Starbucks we found yesterday and enjoy some coffee and wifi.

We actually stayed there quite a while, (the girls enjoyed their frappucinnos at their own table, then played around the statues with Daddy.) We checked social media, email and texted a bit with stateside family before bundling back up and heading “home”.

blog photo 2

“The rest is history”–as they say! We were settling in (I was actually painting a little sketch of the canal) when Daddy to tried to turn a bathroom light on and turned off our electricity instead. I’ve moved to the kitchen table now (bringing the candles) and Mommy is here writing in her own journal and drinking wine. We stopped for a while to do laundry, which meant scrubbing our panties with dish soap in the bathroom sink and hanging them in our stall-sized bathroom. Of course, our lovely bike repairman (who is still here and is slowly winning me over with his determination to be of help) soon had to start walking in and out of our bathroom, past our lingerie display, and pulling the Famous Chain of Doom repeatedly, for reasons beyond the female mind.

In other news–my little watercolor set and aqua brush I bought for this occasion work quite well. I had a lovely few minutes on the “roof” sketching the canal by the heat of the fresh air exhaust pipe…

WE HAVE POWER! The boat is starting to warm up. We are under strict instructions from Dear Alexander to “don’t touch again.” Roger that.

blog photo 3

4

Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?

Cinderella: Heroine or Doormat?Earlier this week, I went with my sisters and mom to see Disney’s Cinderella in theaters. I can’t watch anything these days without questioning what it is teaching my ten and eleven-year old sisters. I had heard various reviews of this latest princess movie and was eager to develop my own opinion.

The question is simple: is Cinderella a good role model or not? However, folks have been drawing various conclusions since the trailer for Cinderella first released last year. The first controversy I heard was over the size of her waist. Some people were offended that another female protagonist would succumb to the “skinny fever” that seems to run rampant in Hollywood, but I don’t see it that way at all. Cinderella is set in the mid-1800’s, a time period in which corsets were the custom. The girls are all obviously wearing corsets in the new movie (there’s even a humorous scene involving lacing a corset) and that is only historical accuracy. Cinderella looks healthy, lively and petite, not emaciated. So as far as the body type issue, I have no complaints.

The second controversy, which has surrounded princess movies of all types in the recent years, is of course: is she a strong, female lead? This is a loaded question, because “strong female lead” is not a Webster’s dictionary definition, but a matter of opinion. However, my blog is a place just for that, so, in my humble opinion…

Some movies cast an undoubtedly bad light on women. I actually refused to go see the latest James Bond for that reason. For centuries, woman’s main source of power has been seduction and I don’t want to support that idea for another decade. Women are immeasurably creative, resourceful and resilient and I would love for my little sisters to see that reflected in movies.

So let’s dissect!

(Spoiler warning for the 2% of the world that doesn’t already know this story.) The movie begins with Ella as a baby and young girl. She is full of joy and surrounded by love. From a young age, she is quite the conservationist, often caring for seemingly forgotten members of their household, especially the mice. True to the fairytale, Ella’s beloved mother falls ill and dies while Ella is still young. As she lies on her deathbed, she gives Ella this piece of advice: No matter what happens, always be kind and have courage. 

This simple advice becomes Ella’s mantra and a main theme in the movie. When Ella’s father remarries and brings the Lady Germaine and two stepdaughters into the home, Ella reminds herself to be kind and have courage and is able to treat them with kindness, even though they are rude and insensitive. The new “family” doesn’t start off seeming cruel or abusive, but rather like many real blended families start off. Things are awkward, the kids don’t get along well, everyone has to adjust to a “new normal.”

Ella and her father appear to have a mutual understanding that these three new family members are more than they bargained for, but are both hopeful things will smooth out. When Ella’s father leaves for an extended business trip, things take a turn for the worse. The stepmother starts to show excessive favor to her own daughters and begins to belittle Ella. When word comes that her father will never return, Ella is the only one who grieves him. All her stepmother seems to care about is the loss of income. The household is released and the work is left to Ella.

Is Ella submissive? Yes. Does this make her a bad role model? Not necessarily.

Ella evidently clings to the last wishes of both of her loving parents: to be kind, to have courage and to try to make this new family work. When it becomes clear that she and her stepfamily will never truly be a family, Ella continues to keep her promise to her mother, but she does not cower or give up on her own dreams. Ella continually makes the most of what she has, remains hopeful and goes to great lengths to improve her own life while still being kind to her cruel stepfamily.

Ella is submissive to her stepmother, not because she thinks she has no value or is too afraid to cross her. Ella’s courage is unwavering throughout the entire movie. She is submissive because she promised to be kind. She is submissive because she has the courage to love the unlovely people in her life.

I think what is really bothering people about having Cinderella as a role model, is not that she’s weak, but that she’s good. We’ve come to associate bravery with rebellion. I think many people want to see movies with main characters more like Lady Germaine than Ella. As Jo March says in the 1994 Little Women, “Women should have a vote, not because they are angels, but because they are people. Men do not vote because they are good, they vote because they are male.” Women are exhausted of feeling our only character choices are goodness and seduction. There is so much more to 51% of the people on this planet. And because of this, we’ve fled from “goodness” and replaced it with so-called onscreen equality.

Lady Germaine is clearly a hurting person. She has been widowed twice and is greatly disappointed in her stupid daughters. She is afraid of her penniless future and obviously harbors a deep envy of Ella. In order to feel she has any standing at all, she must continually put Ella down. At one point, she actually cracks a little and rails at Ella for being young, beautiful and good. She cannot stand Ella, purely because Ella is everything she wishes she was. She particularly hates Ella because Ella does not hate her back.

But, of all her strengths, this is Ella’s greatest. She is perhaps the bravest of Disney princesses because she does not give in. She does not begin to hate or even to flee. The world may very well not be able to see her as a role model, but as a Christian, I think she’s a heroine. She loves, she serves, and, in an extremely touching scene toward the end, she forgives. Lady Germaine scarcely seems to comprehend the words, “I forgive you” but they make quite the impact on the audience.

Does the prince save Ella? In a sense, he does. But the future he is able to provide Ella with is more of a reward for her good heart and hard work than an avenue of salvation from another hero. “Kit” (as the prince is called) is dazzled not only by Ella’s beauty, but the ways she contrasts with the other girls. She is humble, brave, has a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to speak it. Kit clearly marries Ella because he loves her, not because he pities her or wants to promote himself.

In the midst of her trying home life, we see Ella blowing off steam (which is when she meets Kit) and defying her stepmother’s wishes (attending the ball.) She does not decide that this is her lot in life, or resign herself to “her place.” She is tempted to believe the things that are said about her, which we can all relate to, but she chooses to believe what the people who loved her said about her. 

When Kit finds out who she really is, we don’t have that awful fifteen minutes of miscommunication onscreen love stories usually give us. She comes clean completely and boldly approaches him as “Cinderella,” as if to say, “I know what they say about me, but I’m not afraid of that identity. My life has not been easy, but it has only made me stronger.” She asks if the prince would take her just as she is, and he asks the same of her. If that’s not equality, I don’t know what is.

Finally, Ella does not seek revenge on her stepfamily on any level. She forgives them and moves on with her life. Justice is served outside of her hands. The “happily ever after” feels like a fitting reward for a resilient, brave, and yes-good-woman. And Cinderella feels like an anthem for the virtues movies seem to have forgotten lately: quiet courage, bold love, firm perseverance and humble happiness. It’s a reminder that we really do want the good guys to win and we really aren’t tired of happy endings.

Cinderella provides everything your little sister is hoping for: glass slippers, fairy godmothers, animate mice and a dashing prince. What they might not expect is to be inspired not only by the ballgowns, but also by the morals of this famous princess. As a sister, an equality advocate and a movie-goer, I give Cinderella five stars.

3

everly abroad

Dear Faithful Readers,

I have so enjoyed this whole blogging thing lately. I’ve been writing about adoption, great books, prayer, being a stay-at-home daughter, singleness and dressing modestly. What you didn’t know was that I was keeping a big secret from you all along. Plans have been in the works for some time, but they weren’t finalized until just last night.

On April 3rd, I am flying out of Houston with my parents and my two youngest sisters and I won’t be back for nineteen days. In the meantime, I will be soaring around in airplanes and chugging along in passenger trains and seeing Europe for the first time in my life.

travel for travel's sake

“Meggie” and my parents had to return to Latvia one last time to get her permanent visa and we’re turning it into a bit of a vacation. I’ve been saving for months, hoping to go. Little did I know when I started saving that I would not only being seeing the beautiful country of my sister’s origin, but also taking a “fika” in the land of my mother’s ancestry, Sweden! And picking tulips in the country of our beloved Vincent van Gogh, The Netherlands! And taking a train through Germany and Austria where the hills are alive with the sound of music! And floating down the canals in a Venetian gondola! And having a lay-over in Moscow! And spending nearly a month abroad, like a character in a book.

Excuse me while I stare into the distance for a moment.

Nope, still don’t believe it.

I’m still pondering how to best invite you all on the journey with me. My instagram account is private, and probably staying that way (lots of little siblings pics appear there) but I may create a hashtag y’all can use to creep along with me. Either way, I intend to have a genuine BLAST in April and want to tell you all about it, already.

But for now, I have a couple more weeks of work left and some loose ends to tie up and would love to ask y’all a few questions as I prepare!

1. For those who have traveled by train in Europe, any advice?

2. To those who have traveled as or with 10-12 year olds internationally, any advice?

3. To those who have seen these specific cities (Amsterdam, Riga, Stockholm, Venice) what is a must-see/must-do?

4. What movies or books should we snag as we prepare for this trip??

5. IF I do create a hashtag, what should it be?

 

16

Why I’m (Still) a SAHD (Part Three: A Week in the Life)

Why I'm Still a SAHD (Part Three)

My plan has always been to conclude with a post addressing the challenges of staying home as an adult, but the more I thought about, the more I felt that I had addressed the main points in the previous posts. It can be a challenge, but with good communication and grace, the balance of home life and independence can be found.

A writer from the mastermind group I lead suggested I conclude with a “week in my life” post to share how much time I spend at home and how much time I spend on my own endeavors. This season is definitely my most independent yet, so I thought it was an appropriate suggestion. Just a reminder for those who may be new to the blog, I’m twenty-two, single and not in school. Without further adieu, I give you A Week in the Life:

Sunday:

Sundays are my “sleeping in” day because I don’t get up until 8:15! I have an hour before we leave for church, so I eat breakfast and drink a small cup of coffee while I get dressed and ready. We are in a funny and delightful season in which everyone who goes to church in the morning fits in one car! Our SUV fits eight, and eight of us pile in every Sunday morning! (My sister and her husband go to a different church which meets in the afternoon!)

After church and Sunday school, we meet back up and head home for lunch. We spend the rest of the day together at home, except for when it’s time for the youth events in the evening, in which one of my parents or I gives our three “youth” rides to-and-from their various activities. We sometimes cook on these days, but a lot of times we eat leftovers. Naps are in order on Sunday afternoon and, in the evening, Downton Abbey!

Monday:

On Mondays, my alarm goes off at 6:45 so I can get ready for work. First things first: I head downstairs and make a pot of coffee! I get ready of my day, pour some coffee in my thermos and tell my family goodbye. I spend 8:00-12:00 in a general contractor’s office as the front desk receptionist. I really enjoy my job, but it’s pretty slow so I often get to write or read while I’m at work. I also use this time to update my mastermind group and do my BSF homework every day. This is a huge plus to working in a quiet office!

At noon, I head back home for a quick lunch with my family. At 1:15 I leave for my second job! Er…my first job, that is! 1:30-4:30 I babysit for a family who lives on our side of town. I have been babysitting for them for four years, so it was important to me to keep this job when I took the receptionist position! The family was sweet enough to change my schedule to accommodate my second job. I play with a three-year-old and a four-year-old on Monday afternoons and love it!

After that, I often go through the drive-through at the bank to deposit last week’s check, or make a grocery run for dinner. We have a “quick” dinner together before we all head to BSF at 6:55. By the time we get home from BSF, the line for the shower forms and we go to bed!

*Mondays have always been Cleaning Day for my family, so while I’m away, they are all doing housework and yard work. They have all been sweet enough to pick up my slack, for the most part, since I got this job in October. I try to keep our upstairs bathroom clean throughout the rest of the week. For curious readers, my mom does almost all of our laundry on this day (including sheets and bathmats) and it takes her all day!

Tuesday:

Same song, different verse! My alarm goes off at 6:45, my coffee and I are in the office 8:00-12:00 and then I’m home for lunch. After lunch, I try to do thirty minutes of exercise, focusing on strength training. Lots of times we cook dinner on Tuesdays and watch a movie in the evening. My mom and the four youngest kids are getting ready for Classical Conversations on Tuesday nights, so presentations are being prepared and lunches packed.

Wednesday:

Office: 8:00-12:00

Most of my family is at Classical Conversations most of the day on Wednesdays. When my mom gets home, we have all had lunch and we have afternoon coffee together. There are often cookies involved…

After this, I try to spend about an hour on some sort of artwork. This can be hard to prioritize, but so important for me personally! Again, we usually have dinner as a family.

Thursday:

Office 8:00-12:00

Thursdays are my “free” afternoon. Sit on the deck in the sun, play cards with my little brothers, run an errand or two…

Friday:

Office 8:00-12:00

I try to do about thirty minutes of cardio after lunch on Fridays. Power walking (I don’t run!) is my favorite, though biking on my cruiser and dancing in my bedroom are also great! Impressive, right?

Saturday:

On Saturdays, I lead a service team at our church! We usually meet at 8:00 in the morning at the church, which is about twenty-five minutes from Eyrie Park. I have a partner, so my responsibilities change a little each week, but every-other week I pick up breakfast on my way and also prepare a short devotional to start the team off with…hopefully before I’m on the way! I usually get up at 7:00 on Saturdays, because it doesn’t take long to put my hair in a ponytail and throw on some old clothes!

We usually get to our job around 9:00 and work until around noon. Our jobs include anything from yard work to house work to helping someone move. We are usually serving the elderly of our (large) church family. More often than not we’re serving a widow. I love the hands-on work, but my favorite part of the day is visiting with the people who we’re able to help and praying with them. Around noon, we head back to the church to regroup and then head home.

During Lent, and Advent, we do a devotional as a family every evening, Monday-Saturday. We light candles, sing, pray, read aloud and discuss. This often lasts for a couple of hours, since we don’t have any truly little kids anymore and everyone is expected to participate.

My almost-twenty-year-old sister and I share a group of friends, for the most part, and we usually have 1-2 “social outings” with them throughout the week. Maybe it’s a “girls’ night” for movies and dessert or afternoon coffee with just one or two other girls, or going to a play or other event together. My parents let us borrow a car for these things, which is awesome! I got a late start as far as driving goes, but now I’ve been driving for almost five years and I’m comfortable navigating our city, but I don’t have my own car. Borrowing a car is a huge luxury for the technically car-less.

Last week, we met our friend Briana at the grocery store to pick out ice cream together and then head back to Eyrie Park. We ate ice cream, played Dutch Blitz and then she stayed for dinner! A couple of days later, we met another friend in Downton to go antique shopping. These times are really fun and special.

Sunday afternoon found me playing Guess Who with Dorothy and reading her a Disney Princess collection (in it’s entirety!) before my leader meeting at our college pastor’s house. Every week is a little different, but there’s always a lot of in-and-out, eating, borrowing and switching cars and time together. All-in-all, I think my life is pretty great!

2

Why I’m Still a SAHD (Part Two: Other Reasons)

Why I'm Still a SAHD (Part Two)

You can read the introduction and part one of this series here and here!

Now that we’ve covered what a SAHD is and why I personally love being home, I wanted to dive into the common reasons given for daughters staying home and discuss whether or not they are actually valid. If I’m not staying at home because I believe it’s the only holy choice for me, enjoying my parents’ home cannot be the only reason I stay. Well, I guess it could. I mean, it is pretty great…

Anyway, here are the Other Reasons I stay:

1. Staying connected as a family

I have quite a few good friends. Some of them I would even count as family. However, my immediate family is my top priority as far as human relationships go. My parents always put a huge emphasis on being friends with our siblings. My parents are best friends, they are friends to their kids (in a healthy way) and we are all friends with each other. We were homeschooled most of our lives and moved around/traveled a lot, so there were seasons when we didn’t have many friends outside of our home. There were road trips that consisted of twelve-hours a day in our suburban for three days with no TV or phones or iPods or iPads or Gameboys (is that even the thing anymore??) We had two options: be friends or hang out with your enemies all day.

The relationships that we built out of these somewhat isolated times are too precious to lose now that we are growing up and grown. So basically, if I moved out, I could live with a really great friend or two, but if I stay home I’m with my best friends in the whole world. My sisters are pretty sweet roomies. I get to eat lunch with my little brothers. I get to stay up late watching movies with my mom. Our home is the hub of our social life in many ways. We love opening our doors to each other’s friends. And yes, we do get out, but we bring people in even more often and that keeps us all really connected. Which I love.

2. Money, money, money

For obvious reasons, it saves me money to live at home. Most of my friends who are in college are unable to support themselves. They do not work while they are in school or, like me, work part time. Their parents have to pay for housing, food, tuition, books, bills, gas and extra finances. I can only imagine that that adds up very quickly. Going to college costs a lot, but just living outside of the home does too. At home, I take up one bedroom and three meals a day, not much gas or other resources. I don’t even shower every day, but you probably didn’t need to know that…

I am very thankful to my parents for continuing to support me. I pay for any extra things I need (clothes, gifts, books, coffee with a friend, etc.) and try to make wise choices with their money. As it stands now, I work twenty-three hours a week and am saving up for future plans right now. I am able to work for and save my own money, because I live at home. I’m hoping this gives me more career options in the future, because it will be my money to spend when I want to pitch another book or continue my education.

3. It’s safer

I don’t think this one needs much explaining. Coming home late at night to my dad and brothers and our dogs and a lock and key and a security system in a house in the woods is a lot safer than coming home late at night to an apartment in which my girlfriends may or may not be sleeping behind a door which may or may not be locked. Plus: hanging out with guys at my house vs. hanging out with guys at “my” apartment. It’s kind of like living in a boarding house. There are plenty of “public” places to chat.

4. Team work

By living at home, I’m able to help my family in many ways and they are able to help me, too. Over the years, I’ve been babysitter, housekeeper, chef, grocery shopper, tutor, errands runner, landscaper, you name it. It has given me ample experience for starting my own home one day (though it didn’t take twenty-two years to learn to cook and clean, no matter what other SAHDhood advocates may say!) Do I consider myself to be a domestic goddess now? No. But am I more domestic than the other girls I know? Yes, I probably am.

At times, my parents paid me to do certain tasks for the home. I used to get paid to grocery shop, plan meals and cook. Today, my nineteen year old sister gets paid to twist my little sister’s hair every week and maintain it (black hair is no joke, y’all.) In return, I use my parents all the time, even at twenty-two. My dad fixes my computer and scrapes the ice off the windshield and changes lightbulbs and fetches things from the attic. My mom answers a myriad of questions every day, does 100% of my laundry, lets me use her car, makes my coffee when I’m rushing out the door and drops it off at the office if I forget it all together! Living so communally, it’s impossible to separate the things we do for ourselves and the things we do for each other.

The truth is, we all spend a lot of time at home and much of that time is spent running the home. Maybe my dad is cooking and I’m helping. Maybe I’m cooking and my little brother is helping. Maybe I cook by myself and my little sisters do the dishes. Maybe my mom is homeschooling and I’m running the errands. Maybe she’s running the errands and I’m homeschooling. If this was a business, the jobs would have to be more set in stone (and oftentimes that sounds more appealing!) but when you’re family, you pitch in where you can.

5. Having a little share in a big company, vs. having a big share in a little company

I get to live in a big house with a big kitchen and a big yard. Sure, I share it with nine other people, but I get a share. When I want to cook, I have a big, nice kitchen to do it in with big, nice pots and pans. When I want to have friends over to watch a movie, I have a big, nice TV room with a big nice TV in it. When I want to garden, I have a big space outside where I can till the ground. When I want to read a book against a tree, I have my choice of trees! Big companies can offer bigger benefits. Sure, there are things I envy about those in “little companies.” No one has to ask their roommates before they make plans. There’s not a line for the shower when you live with one or two other people. Having your own car must be nice. But almost every time I have a friend over to Eyrie Park for the first time, they mention our backyard. That’s some pretty great Members Only perks, right there!

What are other benefits to staying at home as an adult I didn’t mentioned?

4

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes