Monday, April 30, 2012

Charged with the Glory of God

As I've related in more graphic detail than anyone required, we've been sick, sick, sick. And sick means home bound. On Tuesday, I mad a mad dash to Goodwill and Dollar General because I was a) desperate to get out of the house and b) desperate to replace Folgers Country Blend with Folgers Breakfast Blend.

Tonight found us all, if not well, at least on the mend. The older boys were desperately overdue for real haircuts (as opposed to the desperation trims I offer to avoid notes from school). My friend Heather the hairdresser lives on the next block, so I pulled out the sit and stand, loaded up the little people, and headed over.

And I thought about how I drive everywhere. Our immediate neighborhood invites jogging, strolling, visiting. But we're always in such a darn hurry. Strolling swallows an extra ten minutes we, sadly, can't seem to muster. Tonight, however, I pulled out the stroller and down the block we went.

On the way back, there was the slightest nip in the air. As we turned out of neighbor's driveway, we began a Divine Mercy Chaplet. We passed a hedge overgrown with honeysuckle. Tim pulled off a few sprigs, and John yelled, "I want Honeysuckles, too."

I didn't know that John could recognize Honeysuckle.

I noticed my friend working in the garage of her house. Her first home! So neat! I passed my friend Karen's house and prayed that she is having a good week as she marks the halfway point in her chemo-therapy. We crossed the street and passed our friend Dennis' house. Dennis died last Friday after a protracted and difficult decline. I noticed the cars belonging to many of the grown children still parked in the driveway and prayed for the family as they continue to grapple with the loss of this giant of a man. As we turned the last corner, I spied three friends and their Saint Bernard. Kolbe, Ainsley, and I joined them to catch up for a few minutes.

I thought about how much better I do when I get out of the house and smell real smells and pray for real people and bump into friends and visit and laugh.

Last fall at the beach, we rode bikes everyday. One of the best aspects of Hilton Head is that you can bike as far as you have stamina to bike. You can bike to the beach. You can bike to the ice cream parlor. You can bike to the grocery store. We biked through a torrential downpour. We spotted birds and alligators and turtles.

And all this feeds my soul.

I came back from Hilton Head determined to spend more time outside. I love to read. I love to watch movies. I spend way too much time surfing the net. But Honeysuckle and wildlife and a nip in the air -- well, reality trumps virtual reality any day of the week.

As I look ahead to the summer, I need a plan for getting us all out of the house. Jen Fullwiler recently wrote about the allure of the McMansion for people who live in scorching climates. I, unlike Jen, do not have scorpions overtaking my backyard, but, believe me, we know what it means to be hot. Sometimes I think my kids, like Jen's, would prefer housework to doing something -- anything! -- outside. We take solace at the pool and head North for extended visits.

I've been re-reading Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss.This is a beautiful book and speaks to you whether or not you're a homeschooler. It's about home education, and all of us educate in our homes. Elizabeth stresses nature study. I'm gleaning some new ideas here that I may post later.

As Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, "The world is charged with the glory of God." When I allow that light to shine on me, what a keen difference it makes.

Best Captures My Fiesty Boy

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's So Glorious about the Glory Run

Today was The Glory Run, an annual fund raiser for The Alleluia Community School. Let me backspace and correct my typo so that it's The Glory Run, not The Gory Run. I uploaded my photos and just loved what I saw.

First my dear friend Joyce cheering as her daughter came in second place overall (beating all them boys!):

And Tim coaching John through the Tot Trot:


And this:

And my friend Laurie's youngest son pushing her first grandchild through the race:

And our God son Aiden sprinting to the finish line:

And Kolbe persevering:

I wish I had a picture of my 83 year-old-neighbor Monique, the oldest participant in the 5K. She finished and this only a few months after she broke her hip.

A glorious day.

The Grocery List

As compiled by the resident teenager:

1. Chocolate Milk

2. Barbecue Chips

3. Peanut Butter

4. Pancake Mix

5. Waffles

6. Bagels

7. Chicken in a Biscuit Crackers

8. Moose Tracks Ice Cream

9. Biscuits

10. Cheese Puffs

Not a fruit or veggie on the list. Scurvy, anyone?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

1. So it's country day in the fourth grade, and Kolbe planned to dress as an Egyptian mummy. I assembled white linen strips and a pile of safety pins. This morning we started wrapping. And the pins -- which clearly weren't designed to pin a darn thing -- started bending. And the strips kept falling. And I began to panic. And I told Kolbe to start praying the Angelus.

And then we seemed to have it all together.

I walked Kolbe to the van and buckled him in and urged him to move as little as possible. He got out of the van and everything fell apart. I pinned and tied and tucked and the overall effect was mediocre at best.

And do you know what? The world didn't come to an end.

2. I'm now making Cleopatra's kisses to deliver at lunch time. May these turn out better than the costume.

3. For those who have prayed for our assorted ailments, thank you. We are down to one case of pink eye (or "the red eye" as John calls it), a rash of unknown origin, and one aching back.

4. On news of a great technological breakthrough, I sent my first text message with punctuation. Yes, I have cracked the code. Who knows? I may tackle capitalization next.

5. I received my first text message from Dave: We,re at dinner. I love u too. We'll both have to hunt down the apostrophe.

6. I mentioned before that I plan to frisk John before church and school because he's always, always, always stashing a little contraband here or there. Yesterday's school picnic at the park was no exception. It was crazy enough that I will leave the story untold save to say I should never judge another mother, ever, ever, ever.

So this morning we're in the school bleachers watching the country day parade, and I notice an odd bulge in John's pocket. The pat down reveals a tube of mascara.

"I was going to give it Miss Rebecca," John informs me.

What can I say? John adores his teacher.

7. Ainsley saw me reading a letter. "What does that note say," she asked. "I bet it says 'Daddy loves me.'"

He does, Sunshine, and he's coming home tonight!

Visit Jen to add your quick takes.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Some of the First Photos I Blogged

I was scrolling through my photo archives and stumbled upon these two pics.

While the bazooka has long since vanished, John is wearing these same jammies tonight.

Was my girl really this small?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Would Daddy Do?

Dave is out of town, and several kids are sick.

Seems like I've typed this line before. Or maybe it was "Dave is out of town, and a pipe cracked." Or maybe it was "Dave is out of town, and smoke started billowing out of the van." It happens, and it happens more often when Dave is away.

A wicked stomach bug has laid waste to half the clan. On the upside (and this is a stretch because I'm not really seeing much of an upside):

1. I can now spell the word diarrhea. Did you know that there are not one but two r's in diarrhea? Well, now you know.

2. Speaking of diarrhea, let me tell 'ya, we're dealing with it big time.

3. Bananas cure diarrhea, but not if you throw them up.

4. Pepto Bismol cures diarrhea, but not if you throw it up.

5. I heart my washer and dryer.

6. I may light a votive candle under my bottle of bleach.

7. I used my first emoticon today -- the one labelled "puke, puke." Yes, there is an emoticon labelled  "puke, puke."

I popped by Dollar General, desperate to lay in a cheap supply of Folgers Breakfast Blend. I'm down to one can of Folgers Country Blend which is just plain awful (the flavor, not the supply). As I was checking out, I spied the toy aisle and immediately thought of Dave.

What would Daddy do?

One thing I know for sure and for certain about my husband: If he were here and John were sick, he'd be in that toy aisle finding something that would put a smile on John's wan and woebegone face.

When I arrived home, I found John, and quizzed. "If you were sick and Daddy were here," I asked him, "what would he do?"

"He would take care of me," John said, starting to look excited, "and he would buy me a present."

I bought two motorcycles and can now hear Tim going the extra mile and really making John laugh with them.

If there's a silver lining in this dark and nauseous cloud, it's that sickness gives all of us another opportunity to nurture, to comfort, to care.

Monday, April 23, 2012

To Have a Voice

Our day was to begin early, so we set the alarm clock for 4:30. We didn't need to bother. At 4:30 on the nose, Ainsley careened into our room wailing, wailing, wailing.

"What's the matter, sunshine," I asked, trying in vain to make her comfortable.

"My eye," she told me as she began wailing once more.

The afternoon before she had wakened from her nap with a gunky eye. I told Dave she might have pink eye. Sure enough. I headed to the bathroom to run some warm water and grab a washcloth. By the time I returned, Ainsley was clutching her left ear and telling me that was troubling her as well.

I reflected on how much appreciate the fact that my kids can communicate.

As a baby, Kolbe came down with one cold, cough, and sinus infection after another. A happy kid by nature (both then and now), he felt lousy on a regular basis. Right around the same time, I went through a spate of ear infections myself. Seems every bout of congestion put tremendous pressure on my ears. The pain was intense, I mean, intense. I took the maximum amount of pain reliever in the shortest intervals. I set the timer for the next dose.

I regretted every time I had held back giving one of my babies medicine. The combination of drugs and small babies unnerved me in my early days of motherhood. I remember two hideous car rides with Kolbe -- one through the North Carolina mountains and one through Virginia. He was congested and his ears probably hurt. He was too little to tell me what exactly hurt or how much it hurt.

While today I don't over-medicate, my experience with the burning pain of ear infections and the hammering of migraine headaches has taught me not to under-medicate either.

I remember the day I was awakened from a dead sleep by the sound of two-year-old Kolbe shouting, "My ear has a boo boo!"

Problem diagnosed -- clear and concise. I was glad my son could communicate.

One Sunday morning found us dissembling in the third pew on the right. I gathered the miscreants and headed for the anonymity of the cry room. Now, I have written about cry rooms before. They, too, were somehow overlooked in Dante's Inferno. Believe me, they offer some colorful and varied torture that at least seems eternal at the time.  You know what's the worst thing about the cry room? Being in there instantly summons the inner Church Lady in me. I no sooner cross the threshold when I begin picking apart every person in there.

This Sunday was no different.

The cry room was unusually quiet. I sat behind a mother who was holding a boy who appeared to be seven or eight. And immediately Church Lady began to wonder why a child that old couldn't handle Mass. And he was wrapped up in a blanket. And he was eating. And Church Lady really doesn't cotton to kids eating in church. And the boy was so quiet. Gosh, Church Lady wished she had a son who could be so quiet at Mass. And as Church Lady was forming all these thoughts -- which, bless her heart, really flew through her head in a matter of seconds -- Church Lady noticed that the mother was wearing one of those rubber bracelets that announce a cause. Church Lady craned her neck to read what it said. And Church Lady gulped.

Autism speaks. The bracelet said Autism Speaks.

The little boy wasn't just quiet; he could very well have been non-verbal. And the blanket? It was a weighted one. And the mother? She was bringing this boy to Mass -- alone -- knowing she would confront not just her child's sensitivities, but also a bunch of know-it-all Church Ladies.

Sometimes I long for peace and quiet around here. That Sunday morning I walked away from the cry room with a new appreciation of noise.

I am grateful my kids can communicate.

Speech is high on the list of things we work on around here. Sometimes I teeter on the edge of despair at the negativity that comes out of our mouths -- mine included, mine especially. The younger set is enamored with all words related to bodily functions, and then there's an unidentified member of the older set who struggles with the usual list of words adolescents seem prone to say.

Sometimes I struggle with volume. "I'm standing right next to you," I repeatedly tell one of my kids who seems to have one volume and that would be jarringly loud.

Sometimes it's the sheer number of words. One of my kids is going to be a rapper one day. The words pour fourth without pause.

But then I sit in church behind a woman whose son clearly struggles to have a voice, any voice.

Just after I tended to Ainsley's eye, I heard four-year-old John coughing in the next room. He came to me feverish and miserable. "I frowed up on Ainsley's bed," he told me in a pathetic tone.

Although I don't always appreciate the message, I am so very blessed that he has a voice.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dedicated to Our Friend and Brother Dennis

An hour ago, our friend and brother Dennis crossed the veil into eternal life. Years ago he set his eyes on this very prize, and with unwavering vision and purpose, he set about building God's kingdom.

Well done, good and faithful servant. We are better people for having shared this life with you.

What I Learned While Violently Ill Wednesday Morning

Seven Quick Takes - The Doxycycline Edition

1. Do not -- Do! Not! -- take Doxycycline on an empty stomach. Gruesome, gruesome, gruesome.

2. It is entirely possible to direct the morning activities of four children while in the fetal position on the couch.

3. This can be accomplished without yelling or threatening. Okay, so maybe it wasn't accomplished without threatening, but that was one solitary threat and a lame and idle one at that.

4. My children are fully capable of feeding themselves, dressing themselves, snagging the bulk of their necessary supplies, and -- get this! -- packing their own lunches.

Who knew!

5. I have a zillion of the most generous, flexible neighbors on planet Earth. HT: Sue H. for giving my kids a ride to school.

6. In the aftermath of # 4, the house will look like it was ransacked by a band of marauding Huns headed south to sack Rome.

7. I just may disregard #1, overlook # 6, and do the whole she-bang over tomorrow. Then again, maybe I'll just fake it.

Visit Jen to add your Seven Quick Takes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When He Just Can't Be Here

There's a story -- I true one, I believe -- about three priests sitting around talking. Two of them were playing a game of chess.

One of the men posed this question: What would you do if you knew the world would end in fifteen minutes?

The first priest said he would immediately go to the church and begin to offer Mass. The second priest declared that he would attempt to ease some one's pain and suffering. The third priest said that he'd finish his game of chess.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. So wrote the author of Ecclesiastes 3:1 and so sang the Byrds in 1962.

That's a more poetic rendering of a valuable proverb: Do what you're doing.

So, is finishing a chess game holier than offering Mass? I think the moral of the story is to embrace the duty of the moment. When you're supposed to be offering Mass, offer Mass. When you're supposed to be cooking dinner, cook dinner. When you're supposed to be playing chess, play chess. One activity doesn't substitute for the other, and all are equally as worthy if that is our duty for that moment.

I've been thinking  about how I pass my time. In some ways, I feel that I've had a lot of it on my hands lately because Dave has been putting in some long, long hours. In other ways, I feel like I haven't had a spare minute because Dave has been putting in some long, long hours.

Off he goes in the wee hours while it's still dark. He's home again, home again late in the evening when it's dark once more. When he is clocking sixteen and eighteen hour days, I look at my time a little differently.

There's no competition to match his stress. In the game of suffering, we try to avoid  one-ups-man-ship and mostly we're successful.  Oh, I can host a pity party. Believe me, I can whine and kvetch and rant. I can play the woe-is-me card (seems I always have a few of these up my sleeve).

The better choice is to just do what I'm doing.

I pray for Dave. I try to lighten his load. If he's getting dressed in the dark, it's always helpful to have clean socks right where they should be. If he's eating at the office, I try to lay in a supply of Lean Cuisines in varieties he likes. I try to be a tad more faithful with the jobs I historically neglect. (Entering receipts would probably garner the most contrite Mea Culpa, and I think I'm presently up to date on this one). I can handle a few pain in the neck jobs that Dave usually takes care of -- that nagging (and long overdue) doctor's bill we're still haggling over with our insurance company, locating that elusive Boy Scout memo, dealing with that pesky toilet that was acting up again yesterday morning.

Dave appreciates all of these gestures of support. But if I could send him a thank you for the hard, hard work he does to take care of us, I think he would most appreciate knowing that his family is peaceful in his absence. By far my biggest challenge during seasons like this is to maintain a cheerful atmosphere here at home.

It isn't easy to pull this one off, and some days I can do nothing but lament how far short I fall.

More than clean socks, Dave wants to hear the happy voices of John and Ainsley on the phone. He wants to hear about the park we visited, the bubbles we blew, the bike ride we took. He missed Tim's soccer game, but he wants to hear Tim report that his team won. He wants to know that Kolbe's been fiddling with his wood burner and working on his stop-frame animation.

He wants to know that we love him and that we miss him and that we offered a Divine Mercy Chaplet for him.

He wants us to keep doing what we're doing as he's doing what he's doing.

I've been married long enough to have experienced what Ecclesiastes highlights: There are seasons. Some better than others. Some mercifully short. Some blessedly long. Some you embrace. Some you endure.

And then the season changes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not!

Gotta admire the kid who was determined to conserve the last two milliliters of milk in this cup.

Reminds me of a friend whose children, now long grown, each employed a different tactic when designated chief bottle washer for the night. One child, embracing the "waste not, want not" principle, put plastic wrap over every pot, pan, and serving dish. A second child was firmly of the belief that all those greasy pots and pans just needed a good soak -- preferably over night. The overarching goal was, of course, to avoid actually washing any dishes.

Jen at Conversion Dairy once asked her readers what they would do differently if they could raise their children over again. One answer surprised me. A mother shared that she would write out clear directions for each household job she expected her children to do. With the perspective of hindsight, she realized she could have instilled in her children a better work ethic and, more importantly, avoided a lot of maternal ranting and raving by simply making her expectations clear.

I have found that lists work far better than verbal commands around here. The lists don't nag; they are don't negotiate; they don't escalate tensions.

The other night I asked a son to clean the kitchen. I defined "clean." I identified the right and left boundaries of his field of responsibility (I'm sure there's some great Army metaphor I could employ here, if I could just think of it). I left the room. When I returned later, I was impressed with a job well done. That dish washer was humming. That counter was clear.

The next morning, I ambled into the kitchen and couldn't find the coffee filters. There's a story behind the coffee filters. Lists, as I mentioned, are very helpful little items, that is, if  -- now here's the rub --you actually consult them. Last week I ended up in a grocery store three different times. Each time I had a list. Each list included coffee filters. On Saturday I was headed to the check out lane when I stopped and perused my list. Once again, I had forgotten the coffee filters. So proud of myself for not forgetting a third time, I checked out and headed home.

So where were the elusive filters? I wondered if I had left them at the store or if the boys had left them in the car. If the latter were true, I was hoping, hoping, hoping that an entire bag hadn't spent the night in the van, especially if the bag contained whipped cream, yogurt, or pork loin.

In honor of my father who turned 75 on Saturday, I made the coffee with a paper napkin. My father is known for improvising when coffee filters are sparse. I opened the dishwasher to grab a mug, and what did I find top rack, center left? The coffee filters -- clean, sparkly, and rather soggy.

When I said "I want this counter clean!", I think my ten-year-old took my words to heart.

I'm writing a new shopping list, and coffee filters are on it once again.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brand Loyalty

Monogrammed and only a quarter!
We all want something for nothing or next to nothing. Last summer I popped into a consignment store and found a pair of like new Chaco sandals in Tim's size for $4.00. They run about $95 retail, so I was definitely saying cha-ching!

I've been thinking about what items we deem worthy of a splurge and which items call for penny-pinching. For years I bought the cheapest liquid laundry detergent I could find and teamed it with Spray and Wash. Just recently, I switched from the no-brand liquid to Tide powder. While I haven't employed the scientific method to analyze the results, I bet I'm using less soap and getting cleaner clothes.

Here's my list of items worthy of  splurge:

1. Born Shoes - I've bought two pairs of these. Sadly, my favorite pair went belly-up a while back. Hands down these are the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned. Full price, they'll set you back a cool $100, but you can find sales or hit Ebay for deep discounts. (They're actually worth $100).

2. Skecher Sandals - I picked up a pair of these before our trip to Disney World. We zipped from Cinderella's castle to the Tree of Life, from Tom Sawyer Island to Space Mountain non-stop for twelve to fifteen hours each day. Every inch of my body was screaming  "hot tub" and "ibuprofen". My feet were cool and comfy. I can't recommend these enough.

3. Gap or Old Navy Jeans - I've had four kids and need all the help I can get. They fit great and hold up well.

4. Bras -  Like I said, four kids. Ardent nursers, one and all. We don't call these foundational items for nothing.

5. Nursing Bras - Ditto. You absolutely get what you pay for here.

6. Huggies Overnite Diapers - When your baby is on the verge of potty training, these industrial strength numbers will save you a ton of laundry.

7. Real Whipped Cream - If you're going to indulge, do it right.

8. Ticonderoga Pencils - Dubbed "The World's Best Pencil," these babies actually live up to their slogan. Years ago I invested a frustrating and fruitless thirty minutes trying to sharpen a stash of those festive pencils kids get for Valentine's Day and birthdays. Gosh, those pencil look so fun -- army tanks and balloons and such -- but do you know what? You can't sharpen them. And the erasers? They tear right through paper and don't erase a thing. Ticonderoga pencils are the only way to go. HT: veteran homeschooler Danielle Bean.

9. Good Red Wine - For reasons I can't fully explain, I can drink ultra-cheap chardonnay and enjoy it just fine, but cheap red can bring on a migraine in no time flat.

Lots of other things I deem "Nice, but Not Worth the Splurge." While flying, I've been bumped to first class. What's not to like about champagne and extra leg room? But I've never actually paid to fly first class.

Exhibit A - Why I buy cheap sunglasses.
With kids' clothes, I indulge in an occasional splurge for Christmas or First Communion, but most of our togs are hand-me-downs or come from consignment stores and attic sales (where I am utterly amazed by the amount of money people will shell out for children's clothing). I once had a very conscientious babysitter apologize for letting my kids get their clothes dirty. Do I care? No, I do not. When the big boys head off for a Scout trip or the little ones climb into a mud puddle, my blood pressure doesn't rise.

(Now the black Sharpie on the Easter dress? I was nearly breathing into a paper bag over that one. Spray and Wash plus Tide did the trick!)

I have a mental list of items I don't buy used -- sippy cups, water bottles, bike helmets, underwear (though I've snagged a few pairs of tights on consignment), and car seats (I'm pretty sure it's illegal to sell these used).

Since having kids I've all but abandoned anything that requires dry cleaning. And my sunglasses? Straight from the Dollar Tree.

What is worthy of a splurge? Where do you cut corners?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seven Quick Takes

In the spirit of Easter, here are seven things that bring me joy . . .

1. Finding my teenager -- a boy who used to pray for Alan Shepherd and who once wrote a letter to Buzz Aldrin -- online researching the requirements to become an astronaut. Some dreams don't die.

2. Watching my ten-year-old ripstick through the house. Once in a while this drives me stark raving loony, but mostly it makes me smile.

3. Watching a newlywed couple in our neighborhood. I promise you these two can't pick up the mail unless they are a) together and b) holding hands. So sweet.

4. Hearing John whisper in my ear: I want to go G H L R T and that spells "outside." Alrighty.

5. Watching my two littlest ones fly to the door yelling "Daddy" as Dave came into the house yesterday.

6. Listening to three four-year-olds discuss cars on the way to pre-school this morning. Thomas offered to replace my aging van with a Ferrari. Henry, who hails from a larger family, quite practically pointed out that a Ferrari holds just four passengers. Ainsley chimed in with, "I want a Rari! I want a Rari!"

7. Gathering with our community to sing outside a neighbor's window as he is dying. While mostly unresponsive, Dennis has cried each time he's heard a group of us singing the praise songs he knows and loves so well. Courage, my friend! This fight is nearly over.

Visit Jen to add your Seven Quick Takes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Housework and Toddlers

I've been thinking about Dante's Inferno. It's an interesting read but a tad incomplete. Dante omitted the circle of Hell specially designed for teachers. In it resides a roomful of students all crinkling wrappers. They don bland, innocent expressions and mumble, "Cough drop, Mrs. Dolin."

Then there's the eternal resting place for the mother who snapped the gazillionth time she tripped over a Lego in the dead of night or crushed cornflakes on what was just a spotlessly clean floor. In this circle resides a roomful of pre-schoolers who cavort in a sea of Easter grass while off-handedly mentioning that the baby is in the next room playing with glitter.

The day after any major event -- Boy Scout camp, a family vacation, Christmas, Easter -- will typically find me shovelling out from under the remnants of the event. The aftermath of Easter was surprising heavy, surprising because a) I didn't host the events and b) we don't do over-the-top Easter celebrations. Somehow, some way, Monday morning found me climbing Mount Washmore big time and tackling a few other household messes that seemed to spin out of control in no time flat.

Dwija from House Unseen, Life Unscripted has a great post over at Finding Great Joy. Dwija is talking about that combustible combo of housework and toddlers. For me the take away point was a simple one: Forget about finishing.

Dwija writes:

Let go of "Finished"
This was probably the hardest one for me to learn, and might be the hardest for many moms to get used to. See, before toddlers, if you wanted to accomplish a task, you would start at the beginning and keep going on through the middle and when you got to the end, you'd be finished and then you'd stop.

It's time to let go of finished, you guys. It's just not gonna happen. Not only will there always be something else to do somewhere in the house, but even individual tasks might not be completed before you have to move on to the next thing. An example, shall we?

Let's say I'm in the middle of a Crazy Time chore like vacuuming. But then I look at the clock and see that it's time to get people ready for nap. At that instant I turn off the vacuum and commence the nap time routine. Yes, leave the vacuum RIGHT THERE. It's not hurting anyone and it'll remind you to finish later.

So you do the nap time routine and you lay them down, and then what? Sleepy Time Stuff! Yes, with the half vacuumed floor. Yes with the clothes waiting to be folded (unless those are on your Sleep Time list, in which case, have at 'em). Let go of the idea that one task must be completed before you move on to the next one and your frustration level will decrease 79.3% Yes, I've done formal research.

Read the rest here.

Just this morning John heard the rumbling of the garbage truck and said, "Man! I missed it!" Watching the big truck stop, lower its mechanical arm, and dump our debris is big stuff for a four-year-old boy. I have sometimes watched the garbage truck rambling through our neighborhood and wondered what goes through the minds of the garbage men. Do they swing by on Tuesday morning and say, "You people have trash again this week? Really?" Although I've never asked them, I doubt this is the case. They are in the maintenance business and expect trash every Tuesday, every Friday.

I, too, am in the maintenance business. Yes, I'm in other businesses, too, but I dedicate a significant chunk of my day to maintenance. The messes shouldn't surprise me quite the way they sometimes manage to do. There are, of course, exceptions to this basic premise. While not exactly a mess, I was surprised to pick up an uneaten banana this morning and find that John had written his name on it.

Where messes are concerned, size matters. I am all too used to finding our white, porcelain sink splattered with toothpaste, but I nearly pulled out the camera to capture the glob of Crest for Kids I discovered the other day. This was one impressive specimen. I'm talking the size of small tangerine.

Then there are things that simply startle me -- finding a live lizard in the Tupperware I'm rinsing, spotting a battery in the milk jug, finding a toy car floating in the orange juice. Early, early this morning I made my way to the bathroom only to find a four foot frog occupying the toilet.

Most messes are of the mundane variety. I walked to the fridge late last night and my bare feet stuck to some sticky, icky substance that had not been there during kitchen clean-up just a few hours earlier. Bathrooms and boys? We all know the score there. They require a quick wipe down about twice per day. And tomorrow will be no different.

I am in the maintenance business.

I love reading blogs and books on household organization. I recently started reading Like Mother, Like Daughter which is chock-full of practical advice. When I stumbled on a post about managing to get a shower, I thought, "This woman is speaking my language!"  She has a whole series of posts on "Reasonably Clean," as in "The Reasonably Clean Kitchen" and "The Reasonably Clean Bathroom." When I get a minute, I'll link to a few of her posts.

One of my favorite books is Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield. This offers specific, doable ideas that have made a difference in my house. Deniece speaks to the mother who wrestles with the fact that it's never finished, who laments the fact that she's in the maintenance business. Her advice? Regularly set aside time for a project that you enjoy and that will last longer than that newly washed floor.

So important. So true. The fresh coat of paint in my hallway lifts my spirits as I step over a pile of Little People on the way to have another go at Mount Washmore.

At the end of day, mothering these children, making this house a home, is the ultimate long-term investment. When the Little People are in storage awaiting the arrival of my grandchildren, when Easter grass no longer litters my living room floor, when the four-foot frog has taken up residence elsewhere, I'll have four young adults into whom I've poured my time, talent, and treasure. I look forward to watching it all unfold.

When the Kids Get the Camera

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

He Is Risen

Easter morning.

John greets me with a big smile and a confession: I wet your bed, Mama. I'm sorry.

A damp start to what was otherwise a perfect day. We hunt for Easter baskets and enjoy a well-rounded breakfast of M & M's, Kit Kats, and Mounds bars.

Mass is beautiful. Our parish knows how to to do high holy days. From the trumpets to the lilies, from the opening chant to the homily -- it was liturgy that lifts the soul to God.

As the day is winding down, I place a blanket ban on all things chocolate. I'm corralling loose candy and consolidating plastic Easter eggs. I've swept up Easter grass at least three times. By now every mother is Christendom is wondering if the person who invented this wretched stuff is the same great mind who introduced birthday gift bags a few decades back.

But stray Easter grass and wet sheets can't diminish a day spent celebrating the hope Christ's resurrection brings into this world, the hope the resurrection brings into my world. Tomorrow we will be back at work and school, Scouts and Social, laundry and grocery shopping. I pray that the Alleluia we sang today at Mass will reach well beyond Easter Sunday into the mundane and ordinary life I enjoy.

We celebrate twelve days of Christmas, but fifty days of Easter. From now until Pentecost, let's dwell on hope.