Marriage and Hard Work

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On purpose, the title isn’t “marriage is hard work.” It can be, but that’s not what this post is about.

Instead, it is about doing hard work with your spouse, which is what we, Jonathan and Rebecca, have been doing an awful lot of lately.

This has been a banner week for the Moodys. Aside from SCOTUS putting huge smiles on our faces (and happy tears in our eyes) which actually makes this last week one of the best ever, we’ve had lots of frustrating news.

First, as we were headed out to celebrate our 4th anniversary (yay!), we discovered a sick but simultaneously cocky raccoon sitting on our roof, strutting like he owned the place. So we had to call a raccoon catcher. Apparently, our raccoon made a home for himself in our attic while we were on vacation, resulting in three large cracks in our ceiling. One of these is substantial enough that according to the raccoon restoration peeps, the entire ceiling in Edmond’s room has to be taken out and replaced. BLEGH.

Second, a chicken got attacked by something, possibly just another chicken, and now has a comb that is hanging by a (figurative) thread. If this chicken survives, we’ll start calling her Nearly Headless Chick. She’s grotesque looking but she’s hanging in there, with some meds and special attention. Yuck and uck.

Third, a cheery electrician today out to give us a quote looked at our tiny house’s siding and asked, “Y’all know that’s upside down, right?” Ummmmm…. ARGH! Huge forehead smack on both our parts. Yes, we installed the tiny house siding upside down. Inside out, too, truth be told. So that sets us back a couple days at least.

So this week has not been the best. We’re totally exhausted. We’ve got scratches and bruises and swollen hands and aching backs, etc, etc. You get the picture.

The silver lining though (I guess I always look for these), is that we’re feeling more married and closer than ever. It has something to do with working hard towards a common goal, making sacrifices for our family. There’s nothing very romantic about sweating and smelling and being doused in bug spray and having frizzy hair from the humidity and all, except than when I look at my husband I have such admiration for the guy and how hard he’s working for me and our son and our future. And he feels the same about me.

It has me thinking a bit about what the American family looked like when we were a more agrarian society. I’m not suggesting we should go back to those days (again, yay, SCOTUS!), but I am wondering if there isn’t something to be gained from working hard with your spouse and your kids. When more Americans worked at family farms and family businesses, each day was an exercise in team work, in accomplishing common goals so each family could thrive.

I think this extended beyond marriage to include families and friends as well, and that’s been our experience lately. Our parents, my Aunt Baba, our brothers, and close friends have all pitched in tremendously to help us with this insane project, and I love it. Not just because we are benefiting from it (which, we obviously are), but because it is an opportunity to work hard with people we love. I hope they all call on us to return these favors. We want to work hard for them.

That’s all I have to say on this I guess. That I’m loving working hard, and especially, working hard with the man I love, that it feels good to be invested in work together because our present and our future feel more united than ever.

I think I’ll wait till I’ve been married longer to pretend like I’m qualified to give advice, but I will say that if I was asked to give one tip for having a happy marriage it would be “love is a verb,” which I think you take two ways, and I mean them both.  And then if I was asked for a second tip, I’d say work hard together, not at your marriage, specifically, but at this wild and wonderful life you share.

I’ll close with a poem I wrote when I was sixteen or seventeen. It’s been on my mind lately. Forgive its flaws.

“The Wheat Farmer”

we have hollowed out this niche,
bearing our children upon our backs
to place our fate within the
golden stalks, waves on the earth,
to be crushed, and ground,
de-stemmed and de-stalked,
to finite white chalk.

my girl is brown, and earthen;
my son, a willow wisp of fragile limbs.
stretched and bowed;
they shoot across the earth in the early morning,
holding in their palms the stains of black(andhuckle)berry.

we toil.
our skin is spotted,
and our hands are stained red
with blisters from the plow.
when they are down in bed,
we are still awake and praying,
for sun tomorrow,
for rain in summer,
for a harvest in fall
of the gold, which
seems to elude us.

Tiny House Raising

Well, after a week and a half of working on the foundation, Saturday we hosted a tiny house raising where lots of family and friends helped us get a jump start on building a tiny house, and today we made some more important progress with the help of family. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to help!!! We feel so grateful. IMG_5483-ANIMATION

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Moody Gifs.

We are at the beginning of what promises to be a very busy and very wonderful summer. One of our goals for the summer was to get our photo situation fixed (we hadn’t really been able to take photos in a while because our camera, phone, and computer were all completely full). Google Photo has made the whole process a breeze, and in the process, makes these weird little animations out of photos it finds. Here are a few of our favorites. It has been wonderful looking back and thinking about the past few years.

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The Moody Brothers, two nights before our wedding.

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A Chicken Exodus

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Jonathan and me two years ago on our 3rd Anniversary (I was 4 months pregnant).

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Edmond meeting his grandmothers.

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So much cuteness – pt. 1

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So much cuteness – pt. 2

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So much cuteness – pt. 3

Begin Again.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection. – Wendell Berry

Wednesday was my last day of teaching, and it was a good one. My students shouted French recitations with a-typical end-of-the-year energy, I had the students complete the phrase “Je peux dire ____ en francais” and their responses were far-ranging and varied and funny. They’ve come so far. We played a game of “Simon dit” and a girl who I’ve taught two years in a row was the champion, besting a newer student who had taken French since she was 5. I got hugs and sighs and a few teary eyes as we said “au revoir.”

I am sad to say goodbye to the school community that I’ve been a part of now for three years. I will miss it.

And I’m certain I will miss teaching — it has been a part of my identity now for four years. I’ve lesson planned, written tests, made presentations. I’ve laughed and been stern and I’ve tried to act older than I am because, heck, I’m still very young.

But as much as this time feels marked by the end of something, it feels fresh and new and full of possibility. I finished writing the first short story I’ve written in a while, and I think it is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. And I’m increasingly sure about the stories I want to write next to accompany this first new piece, and I feel optimistic about them becoming a collective whole of which I can be proud.

We are also in exciting talks with someone regarding our Dear Balladeer project, more information to come if everything goes as planned.

And the tiny house gets here at the beginning of next week and we are both so excited (and nervous and anxious and eeeek).

But I think the thing I’m most excited about, and no surprise here, is this beautiful opportunity I have to watch my son grow and become more and more his own. I am daily humbled by the task at hand, to try and shape this little life we’ve been blessed with. I am increasingly a fan of Waldorf-inspired parenting literature, and am slowly starting to make changes in our day-to-day as a result of what I’m reading.

Today, I spent some time making a new schedule and routine for Edmond and me. It is certainly a bit ambitious even as I tried to make simplicity its key, but fortunately life does not have to be set in stone. I’m sharing it just because I looked at a lot of other families’ schedules as I made it and would be happy for it to help anyone else looking to build a rhythm for their kids.

At the heart of this new phase of life we’re entering as a family, I want to bring peace to our lives, so that we can truly experience the simple blessings of them. If I am able to do this, and if doing this frees us up to love better and more, than I will consider my life a great success.

Times of transition like these always remind me of Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto.” I’m starting a new trail, striking out to see if this is the right direction.

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These days.

I’m having a ball. Scrapping and yelling and mixing it up. Loving every minute with this damn crew. – Royal Tenenbaum

It feels like there is never a spare minute these days! We are truly firing on all cylinders in the Moody family, and while we’re utterly exhausted, we’re happy too.

Updates:

Jonathan signed his contract for next year, and will be heading up a brand new Spanish program at Cameron College Prep, teaching grades 5-8, native and non-native speakers. It is a huge undertaking, but he is so dern smart and capable that I’m certain he’s up to the task. His school year is rapidly winding down, though this week is ridiculous, because standardized tests = eek.

I officially told Harpeth Hall I won’t be returning to teach French there next year. It was a hard decision, but one I feel really good about. I’m increasingly convinced that rhythm is very important both for young children and their parents, and our life due to my oh-so-strange part-time schedule was feeling very rhythmless. Also, we have so much else going on that we’ll all benefit from me having one less thing on my plate.

We will soon be building a tiny house in the back yard to rent out on airbnb. Our to-do list for this project is immense and never-ending and it seems like whenever we get one box checked off we realize three more things we have to add, but we feel so passionate about the endeavor and the process that it feels well worth-it. The shell of our house will be arriving in two weeks, and then we’ll be spending several months this summer finishing the house. It will be beautiful, and we’re excited.

I am writing, a lot. I think without having my job at Harpeth Hall as a sort of legitimization for how I spend my time intellectually, I will feel compelled to really assert myself as a writer. It is such a scary leap but it’s been a long time coming. I’ve become a ruthless self-editor, scrapping whole pages if they strike me as the slightest bit off, and I can tell a huge improvement already. Today, I entered my first short story contest as a part of this new enterprise. Fingers crossed and such.

Dear Balladeer is still trucking (even if we’re running a day or two behind schedule), and I am loving the process, the research, the melodies, everything. We’ve decided to make 2015 a year to build our folk repertoire and wait until 2016 to perform it, because, who are we kidding, we have no time.

Which I suppose brings us to Edmond, who is a non-stop bundle of adorable energy from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm. He has the vocabulary of a 2+ year old, the appetite of a teenager, and (come nap times) the curmudgeonly grumpitude of a 80-year-old.  He loves nursing, firetrucks, and his family. He hates broccoli (we’ve really tried!), being told ‘no,’ and diaper changes.

Jonathan and I are head over heels in love with him (and each other), which means that life really couldn’t get any better.

Though I wouldn’t mind a vacation.

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Play dates with cousin Willow are our favorite.

what writing generally looks like these days

The Best of Life

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Last night was arguably the roughest we’ve had as parents. We’re all safe and sound, now, all home, catching up on some much-needed zzz’s on this rainy Monday.

But last night, at almost 16 months to the minute that Edmond was born, Jonathan and I found ourselves retracing our route to the Vanderbilt Children’s E.R. Edmond has been sick for two weeks now, with a stomach bug, sinus virus, and ear infection, and last night after having seemed almost his usual chipper self for two days, his fever spiked up to a whopping 104.7, his breathing started sounding strange and labored, and so at around 1 in the morning we packed him into the car and made our way to the hospital. And then after several hours and nurses and doctors, we were relieved to be told this is just another virus, that it’s likely not pneumonia or meningitis or a bladder infection or any other number of worse alternatives.

So we are blessed. Lucky. I think of all the other parents we saw last night, cradling their sick children, carrying even their six or seven year olds awkwardly in their arms because it was 3 in the morning and they were in a hospital and what parent wouldn’t do anything in that moment for their child? We are the lucky ones, whose child got to go home, but, obviously, parenting still isn’t easy.

With 16 months of parenting under my belt, I’ve come to accept that parenting requires a summoning of all of your love and calm and patience and will power each and every minute. It is viewing each moment as all important, and becoming in even the most trying times the best version of yourself, your best you.

Last night, Edmond (who is apparently on to this whole, doctor’s visits might equal shots thing) cried when the nurse touched his foot, his stomach, his back. He cried at the doctor’s stethoscope, flashlight, tongue compressor. With next to no provocation, he would cling to me, sobbing “Mama, Mama, Mama,” over and over again. Because he was sick. And it was 2 in the morning. And he’s still a baby.

And so Jonathan and I remained calm, smiling, patient, as we carried our toddler through the hallway, screaming, or as he sat in our laps in the waiting room, screaming, or as we tried to respond to the doctor over, you guessed it, Edmond’s screams.

We were up all night. Jonathan stayed up even later finishing lesson plans so he could stay home with us today. As ever, I can’t believe I am so lucky to get to go through life with him. I can’t imagine laughing at the utter absurd hilarity of parenting with anyone else. Or sharing all of the joys with anyone else.

So we rise this morning, bleary eyed and exhausted and punchy from sleeplessness. But empowered too, as a family, to have faced a challenge not perfectly but with love.

Because this is the best of life: to give our love freely, to work as hard as we can to be good and to do good for our family and others, to give of ourselves again and again, taking in return the hope that we are doing what is best, that we are raising a good human who will learn to love well in his turn. Parenting is making me better than I am. It is transformative. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Edmond at 15 months.

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Edmond is 15 months old today! And goodness, he has become such a kid in the last few weeks.

Edmond loves cars, makes car and truck noises constantly, almost to a bizarre extent. He also loves animals, animal noises, going down to visit the chickens, and reading books. He has a great appetite, sleeps like a champ, and loves “moon” (what he calls nursing, who knows why!).

Edmond talks constantly and at last count says somewhere around 100 words that Jonathan and I can understand. Weirdest word: ‘goggle.’ Why on earth did he commit that one to memory already? Cutest word: probably ‘peeze’ for ‘please’ which he chants when ever he wants something. Or ‘tickle.’ He requests to be tickled a dozen times a day. I also love when he says ‘Otey’ or ‘Ahture’ (Arthur), the names of the two bears he sleeps with.

Edmond is a mama’s boy for sure but loves both his parents so much and frequently talks about other family members out of the blue. He loves his family. He also loves Minette, his ‘kitty-ca,’ and loves to chase after her chanting ‘tickle.’

Favorite recent memory: while doing a yoga video this week, Edmond went crazy, running, rolling, dancing, all around me. He thinks yoga is so funny. He licked my toe while I was doing downward facing dog. Funny little boy.

Jonathan and I both feel so grateful to have such a darling boy in our lives, and we love him more than we can say. Happy 15 months, kiddo!

Also, being still enough for pictures is a thing of the past.

More photos from lately:

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Eco-Loco: An Update

So here’s an update and some more unsolicited recommendations.

First, we’re still doing family cloth, the bidet, cloth in lieu of paper towels, no tissues, etc. And it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

One thing I’ve learned, and that I would like to share, is that you don’t have to go all-in or change everything at once. We need to acquire some more fleece for family cloth, and have been using toilet paper to supplement our supply while it’s being laundered.  I hope to purchase more fleece soon so as to totally phase out our toilet paper. (I only spent 27 cents on our current supply, so I think investing a few more dollars will be okay). Likely because of my OCD, my first reaction is to feel like this means we’ve failed in someway. I am making an effort to remind myself that to use 3/4 family cloth, 1/4 toilet paper is still helping.

I think it is an important lesson. If you read my previous post and thought you don’t want to commit to going entirely without disposable paper products, don’t. Instead, buy a pack of cloth napkins and use paper once you’ve used them and they’re being laundered. Or use cloth instead of paper towels until they’re dirty and being laundered. It still makes a difference.

Second, I recently purchased a moon cup and that too has been a wonderful experience. There are a lot of perks: it lasts decades and so is much more efficient financially. I feel liberated not having to take a ton of supplies with me everywhere I go. They hold more than paper alternatives and so have to be dealt with less frequently.  There are no harsh chemicals.  I highly recommend!

Third, I recently discovered the miraculous power of rose water. It has replaced my face wash, mouth wash, and is in the process of curing an infection in my eye. It is good for anxiety, depression, works as an antiseptic, and will be replacing tea tree oil as the acting element in Edmond’s wipes (who knew tea tree oil was poisonous? and a skin irritant?). It is also yummy.

We’ve gone eco-loco.

We’ve always cared about the environment, but lately in the Moody household we’ve really been pushing ourselves to do better.

I think it started when we were at a friend’s house for dinner recently and as she passed out the cloth napkins she said something simple like, “My New Year’s resolution is to waste less.”

Woah. Not that I’m regretting our New Year’s resolution, which was to push ourselves to be kinder and more outgoing with acquaintances and friends and strangers. We’re still working on it. We’re introverts.

But what a concept. Waste less.

It resonated with me, since we’ve been on a slow trek towards that end since before Edmond was born, beginning with our commitment to cloth diaper.

Now we just filed our taxes, and we were stunned to see on paper just how little we earned last year. Edmond was born two weeks before the close of 2013, and in 2014 we were broke, by most anyone’s definition. I don’t think we felt like we were on the verge of destitution, but we were definitely close.

I credit some savvy decisions like cloth diapering with making the difference.

When we were crunching the numbers before Edmond was born, we realized we couldn’t afford not to cloth diaper. So we pooled all our gift cards and checks from our baby shower and bought around 200 dollars worth of cloth diapering supplies. This was supplemented by an incredibly awesome gift from my brother- and sister-in-law  of our niece’s old cloth diapering stash. We even got some super cute ones (which was a bit of a splurge, retrospectively).

And we’ve already made that money back, of course. The first month of Edmond’s life when we were using all disposables I was shocked by how many he went through, and horrified to see the bags of waste we were sending to a landfill forever. When he finally fit into his “one-size” diapers at around 6 weeks old, we were thrilled. SO much extra wiggle room in our budget!

Over the last year, we’ve purchased diapers a handful of times for use at my parents’ house, or to keep a back-up in the car, or for a vacation. But at 14 months, cloth diapers have absolutely paid for themselves. And what we figure is, we’ll use these diapers for all of our children (number of forthcoming children t.b.d. and I’m not planning on getting pregnant any time soon, but I definitely want at least a few little ones). So around 300 dollars for diapers for all of our kids? AMAZING.

And then about two months ago, treating our son’s diaper rash for the umpteenth time and researching all the chemicals found in even “natural” wipes, we spent 20 dollars on reusable wipes, and this too felt like such an AMAZING development. I’ll never go back to disposable wipes. It’s so much simpler when you cloth diaper, anyway.

So when the friend at dinner said she wanted to waste less, it got me thinking about all the paper products still at use in our home. I immediately stocked up on a few extra hand towels and wash towels for the kitchen, and stopped using paper towels. (Which felt like a big leap considering the mess our little toddler is capable of making).

All of this felt so natural. But I cringe to type what I’m about to. Here goes: I then decided to tackle the final disposable stronghold in the house. The behemoth. Toilet Paper.

Shocked? I’m shocked. I’m not a super granola-type. Or. I thought I wasn’t.

But here I am.

I purchased a bidet sprayer (which we needed anyway for diapers), and a scrap yard of navy blue fleece (for 27 cents, no less), which I then cut into 29 6-inch squares. We use the bidet, then the fleece, and then launder them with diapers. (If we weren’t still washing diapers, we could probably go 3-4 days between “family cloth” washes.)

It sounds gross. I’m embarrassed even writing about it. But I am, because I am proud of us. We’re saving money for our family and we’re helping the environment. And if we can inspire anyone else to do the same, that would be wonderful.

Subsequently, Edmond got a horrible cold and after finishing off the one box of tissue paper we had in the house, I borrowed some pinking shears from my mother-in-law and cut up some of his old burp cloths into squares. So now no more tissues either.

I could write out the facts and figures that most convinced me, but there is already a lot of literature out there about this that is more thorough than I feel like being at the moment, so here are a few articles to get you started on your researching, if you’re interested:.

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6403

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-bidets/

http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/recycled-toilet-paper.html

P.S. Friday night Jonathan and I watched the documentary No Impact Man, so I think there’s a good chance we’re going to get even more eco-loco. Which is fine by us.

P.P.S. For concerned frequent guests of the Moody household, we’ll have toilet paper on hand for you, if that’s still your bag.

Rebecca’s Reading List: 2014

1. The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

2. Stardust – Neil Gaiman

3. The Game – A. S. Byatt

4. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

5. Angels and Insects – A. S. Byatt

6. Bread and Wine – Shauna Niequist

7. Animal Farm – George Orwell

8. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton

9. The Shiva Tide – by my dad, Don Mooradian (you’ll want to read this when it gets published)

10. The Tale of the Rose: The Love Story Behind The Little Prince – Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry

11. Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There – Aldo Leopold

12. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott

13. Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children’s Literature –  Alison Lurie

14.  Vol de nuit – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

15. The Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett

16. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character – Paul Tough

17. Hard Times – Charles Dickens

18. Persuasion – Jane Austen

19. The Anthologist: A Novel  Nicholson Baker

20. Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children – Sharifa Oppenheimer

21. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen

22. The Victorian Fairy Tale Book – Compiled by Michael Patrick Hearn

 

I was feeling pretty bad about how little I read in 2014 (and knew I’d done worse than 2013), but once compiled it’s not too embarrassing a list, considering I had a baby to contend with all year. Favorite read? Probably Rebecca (not because of the title, I swear). My dad’s book is also tops. Least favorite read? Probably either of the Byatt books, which is a little disappointing since for years her other novel Possession has been my favorite novel. Also, Ethan Frome is a serious bummer, but not a poorly written bummer.

Here’s to hoping I read more in 2015! I’m already off to a great start (currently loving Karen Russell), and I got so many other wonderful books as Christmas presents.

Happy new year, y’all!