Thursday, September 24, 2009

Change is in the Wind

So it's now been three weeks of "business as usual" for my being back at work at Starbucks and having an extra child during the day, and for two of those weeks I've been homeschooling the two older ones. We're really enjoying the school part of things, although the four-year-olds are really struggling to be kind and gentle to one another. I guess that's part of school, too! Here's a picture of the two of them playing dress-up to go along with our lesson on "Things People Do" (aka jobs in the community).

This week I worked over 30 hours at Starbucks, not because I requested it, but because I had to. Now, at the end of the week, I feel exhausted, robbed of all energy, creative or otherwise.

I also feel constantly torn about working because it makes it so that I miss so many church services (either because I'm working during them or so tired from working the night before that, say, a 7 a.m. Divine Liturgy just doesn't seem possible) I also miss out on events and activities on campus, most of which are scheduled during my work hours, since my work hours are scheduled around my husband's class schedule. It isn't clear to me based on these reasons that I definitely should not work. I know that monastics sometimes are assigned tasks that mean that they often miss church services. They keep their cell rule of prayer and do their assignment, whether that's tending sheep and goats or attending services. It's about what that particular person is supposed to do to be obedient to God.

Things are not going smoothly with the child-swap arrangement either, so I think that change is in the wind with that. More to come, I'm sure. I would love to be able to stay home with the kids and be more of a support to my husband by freeing him up to concentrate on his studies, but we need to make up that little bit of income somehow. If the family I'm currently providing childcare for decides to keep their son with us and pays me for it, I could cut back my hours. If another family we've talked with chooses me as the childcare provider for their daughter, then I could see my way clear to stop working off campus. Nevertheless, not my will... Please pray for us to all be guided in the right path for us (and if you want to donate some money to help us along, or send some diapers or non-perishable foods, that would be great, too!)

In addition, in the past week we've had both kids get sick, and now I seem to have some variation on the same sickness (or a different one, who knows?); my youngest daughter's glasses snap in two (currently being held together with foam and tape); and someone hit our van while it was parked in the metered parking at the Scarsdale train station where I work. I happened to go out to the van during my meal break around 5:00 p.m. and noticed the damage. Otherwise I would not have gone out there until after 9:00, when it would have been too dark to see it. So I lost about 20 minutes of work/pay to wait for a police officer to come and file an accident report in case we decide to involve the insurance company.

It's been strange this weekend to see the locals acting so festive over a holiday that doesn't register on my radar: Yom Kippur. It starts tonight at sundown, but I'm not sure that there are so many Jews in Westchester County that the holiday itself is a cause for frivolity. It's probably more that everyone has off work on Monday on account of the holiday, including the public school students. I worked a 7 1/2 hour shift at Starbucks on Saturday, and there were very few moments during that time where there was no line. It was truly remarkable, especially when you consider that most of the store's business revolves around commuters who take the train, so Saturdays are usually pretty dead.

The girls got winter boots in the mail from their Gammie (my mother-in-law) this week. They were very excited and have been reluctant to take them off even to sleep since then. Leaves have been falling off the trees since we got here in August (I think they must always be doing that here), but with the cooler weather, I saw my first yellowing trees yesterday. Also, I'm not sure if this has to do with the weather, but I've had a couple of up-close encounters with wildlife that were less than welcome, particularly the raccoon that was inside a trash can that I opened up to throw a bag of trash in. I think we scared each other equally!

On Monday, I got to go to my first women's choir rehearsal. We sang one particularly beautiful arrangement that was written for women's voices. Otherwise, it appears I'm singing tenor. Whether that's because of this chest congestion or because my voice has gotten that low, only time will tell. After that, we had the Spouses' Program class offered by St. Vlad's for the spouses of students. This week we were treated to hear a guest speaker, Sister Veronica, who is a native of California but a nun in Greece. She talked to us mostly about prayer and had some really encouraging things to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

I've had plenty of opportunities to be reminded myself that I'm not from around here (getting lost frequently, as previously mentioned; having to ask customers to repeat themselves because I don't understand their accent or they are talking too quickly; not being able to find core menu items like Ro-Tel and chili beans at the grocery store; etc.), but I think I just had my first moment where someone else realized that I was not from around here on Monday.

K. and I took a trip to the bi-level Wal-Mart in White Plains. We parked in the parking garage, got a cart, and approached the elevators to go into Wal-Mart. An elevator came and we headed towards it along with a middle-aged man who was using a cane to help him walk. The person who had called the elevator got in and let the doors close without waiting for either of the other parties trying to make it to the door to get on. As the doors closed, I said to K., "I can't believe she didn't wait for us!" The gentleman with the cane apparently thought I was addressing him and said, "You really expected her to?" with an air of incredulity, looking at me is if I were crazy. I said, "Well, I'm from the south. We're polite like that."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting into a Routine

I've worked out an arrangement with another mom here on campus where I watch/homeschool her four-year-old son during the day so that she can go to work, and then she takes the girls and her son home with her in the early evening hours so that my husband can get some studying done while I go to work.

So far it's working out well. H. gets a buddy to play with/conspire against me with :), and it's helping us establish a routine, since my friend's son is here during the same hours every day.

I'm using the Sonlight PreK 4-5 curriculum, with the addition of a handwriting program called Handwriting Without Tears (HWT). I really like the HWT materials so far. They really break down the process of making letters, and make a big deal over how each letter is made. If I didn't like it so much, I might not keep it because it is pretty expensive, especially for homeschooling. The book and teacher's guides weren't too bad, but then I started reading the teacher's guide and saw all the extra, specialized materials that it refers to. I ordered only what I thought was absolutely essential and that I couldn't make myself somehow.

We're going to start just the Sonlight part of it tomorrow, since I won't have both kids on Monday. I'm only watching the other child on days when the seminarians are in class. Normally this means Monday through Thursday, but next week, they have Monday off of classes for the Exaltation of the Cross.

Work here is going okay. I'm getting used to a two-person-at-a-time team of employees and to having people order things like "an iced twall twoffee nut." I'm also trying to humble myself and realize that working at someplace like Starbucks is really all that I'm going to be able to do right now while I'm only available in the evenings.

I'm still getting lost all the time. As recently as last night I had to call my husband from the car and ask him to look up where I was on Google maps and figure out how to get me home. We did finally get a power cord (auto charger) for the GPS unit that our friends loaned us, though, so maybe that part will get better. Last week I got lost in the Bronx - that was really scary! There are so many confusing or missing road signs here that it seems impossible for a newcomer not to get lost. It feels a little bit like a miracle everytime I return home safe and sound, especially if I do so without having gotten lost.

Grocery shopping is interesting here. The shop that's closest to us is open 24 hours and is the cheapest of the groceries I've found so far, but it doesn't have a great selection on some things. My husband and I were left scratching our heads at a lack of chili beans and RO-TEL, which are staples for us. I've since found RO-TEL at Target and another, more expensive grocery, but chili beans are apparently unheard of around here and are not as common as I once believed them to be, judging by the reactions of people I've asked. Between childcare and homeschooling during the day, working in the afternoons and evenings, church services, church school, and trying to do normal housework, I don't have time to go to two or three grocery stores a week, which is what it seems like most people do in these parts, so we're going to have to figure out how to stock up on what we can't find at our close, inexpesive shop at the places where we can find them or something.

We had a namesday party for H. last Saturday, to which we were late because we ended up taking a marathon trip to IKEA and got stuck in construction-related traffic for over an hour. However, despite the fact that we came home almost three hours later than planned, and I didn't get to make the brownies I promised H. we could have, a plate of leftover Starbucks goodies saved the day and all the kids had fun anyway. We just prayed the troparia for St. Elizabeth and offered treats and juice on the playground for a little while. Hope was so excited about this that she told a random customer in IKEA that it was her namesday. The lady looked at me with a puzzled expression and said, "She's so excited that is her... namesday?" so I had to explain. Ahhh, 4-year-old evangelism.

We still haven't made it into the city, but at the very latest, I'm sure we'll do so when my in-laws come to visit for Thanksgiving, unless someone offers to take us before then. I can't see our getting up the gumption to ride the train and the subway with the girls by ourselves just for the sake of seeing the city, but I do want to go. Right now I work in the train station, but have never been on a train here. The funny thing is, if you hear a sound like a train in Texas and it isn't accompanied by a train whistle, it's usually a tornado, so every time the train arrives, I think for a split second that it's a tornado!