I have started volunteering at Annabel's preschool most Monday mornings.
It gets me out of the house and among other people on a regular basis. This is the kind of interaction that I used to get at work that I haven't gotten much of since we moved: with people who can be classified as friends/acquaintances/co-workers, who you see regularly and get to know better as you share the experience of working toward a common goal. They're not family. You don't have years of shared history full of mutual obligations, joys, and sadness. But they're not strangers. You are building a relationship that might stay arms' length but which also might grow and develop into something more. You can talk about your own lives if you have to, if you have time, but that is not why you're together. (The other place where I get this kind of interaction is through participating in the choirs at church.)
For at few hours, it gets me away from constant checking of email/instagram/text message/Facebook/Scramble or Words with Friends. Every time, without fail, it demonstrates these things: 1) I really like little kids, generally speaking; 2) little kids are weird, somewhat crazy, very trusting (they call me "teacher" even if they only saw me for the first time two minutes ago), endearing, often hilarious, and sometimes sneaky; 3) out of all of the kids, many of whom I like very much, Annabel is my favorite.
She's not my favorite during every single minute - like this morning when she was almost weeping and literally clinging to my pants while following me around the school - and of course I know her better than any other child there. So it's not really a shock that she's my favorite, and maybe that's the wrong thing to say, anyway - maybe what is really satisfying is just to see her in contrast & comparison to other little girls and boys, and to confirm that that personality that I like so much is uniquely hers. She is funny and silly and she is mostly cooperative. She is quick-witted and quick-minded and good at figuring things out. She interacts with other kids in a relatively gentle way (most of the time). She is curious about new things and eager to participate in new activities or old favorite activities.
Also, she really likes having me there, and will come up to me every so often just to tell me something nice, like today, when she came up to me, patted my cheek, and said, "You're my favorite mommy, and you're cute."
A few months ago, inspired by a woman I sing in choir with who does this with her 3 older children (she also has an infant), our family has started a new once-a-week tradition. Right now I think we're doing it on Tuesdays, but when we first started it was on Monday, and then we had several weeks in a row where Monday didn't work, so we did it on Sundays. But it doesn't matter - it just matters that we do it at all, and do it regularly. Once a week I take one of the girls out to dinner at her choice of place, and afterward we go grocery shopping. The following week, I take the other girl out to dinner and then to the store. (I say "grocery shopping," but sometimes it's a trip to Target that happens to include a few groceries.)
They both like it a lot, but Katie especially loves it. Katie loves choosing a place to eat, loves helping to pick out groceries, loves her time with Mommy. But it turns out that she also loves another aspect of the routine that I had not expected: as much as she loves the nights that she goes out with me, she loves the nights when she stays home with Geoff just as much. She loves having my/his undivided attention to do something together. With me it's dinner and conversation, then shopping and more conversation, and with Daddy it's talking and playing video games together, and in either case, she looks forward to it with great anticipation. She'll tell me, "I like going with you, but I like staying home with Daddy too just as much. Does that make you sad?" And I tell her no; in fact, it makes me happy.
Geoff got me an iPhone for Christmas, and I love it. I love everything about it, just about, from listening to music to checking my email (it's actually easier to check my two gmail accounts from my iPhone than from my computer) to looking up stuff on the internet to using the calendar and the timer to taking photos.
The impact my iPhone has had on my photo-taking is rewarding and wonderful, and though I can't say that that's surprised me (one of the reasons I really wanted an iPhone was to take pictures), I think it's been even more fun and easy than I anticipated it would be. Can I set my big DSLR on the steering wheel while I'm at a stoplight and take a quick photo? No. Do I sometimes feel awkward carrying my big DSLR into a restaurant or other public place to take photos? Yes. (And with good reason - sometimes people will hassle you about taking photos if you're using a big black camera, but if you're using your iPhone, they don't ever seem to care.) Can I stick my camera in my jeans pocket or coat pocket to carry it easily? No. On many days, do I just want to take photos to share them with family & friends and to document my life, rather than to create more formal art that can be printed out or included in my portfolio? Yes. Yes, many days I just want to take photos of the sign about aggressive geese because it makes me laugh, and because I've never seen anything like it before, rather than because I think it will make a beautiful or even significantly interesting photograph.
I have been taking photos every day (except one day), mostly without having to focus any real effort toward doing so. I'm on Instagram (go here to see the photos below in larger sizes) and Flickr if you'd like to follow along, and I am going to make an effort to include more photos here, too.
Here are my most recent 40 Instagrams. I look at them, and I don't think they are anything amazing, but I do look at them and think, hmm, a slice of life. A slice of my life. And not a bad life at that.