Rough around the edges

It has been a little rough around here the past couple weeks. Vacation didn’t really help to calm things or to even out the daily stresses of life. Our world is hectic and busy, not just the Mom-Taxi, but the chores, the lists and the piles of stuff to deal with every day.

Tonight we had two ballet classes, back to back, a basketball practice, with a total time change, and of course homework and chores. The chickens needed the new bag of food taken down to the coop, the woodstove needed to be stoked and wood brought into the house, dinner wasn’t even going to happen which means fast food of some type, and to top it all off we had run out of bread when I made lunches  which either meant make some or squeeze in a trip to the store (with three little dragons in toe). 

Upon arriving at home, I heard the sighs, the foot stomping, the whining, the angst and the anger, when I asked them to quickly get out if the car and in to our afternoon.  And I was done. I couldn’t take it anymore. Too many frustrating afternoons, mornings and weekends. “That’s it! No more driving and packing and trying to do it all!” But I am quite sure only half of them believed me. (As I checked the mail, unloaded a backpack and the 50 pound chicken food, the. Went back out for that load of wood.)

But then I stopped. A little brown head snuggled up into my puffy coat and said “I’m sorry”. A blond beauty disappeared into the laundry room and emerged with a towering basket of laundry that she carried up the stairs to put away. And a pair of soft brown eyes looked up at me and asked if I she could just have a cliff bar for a snack, so she could get ready for practice quicker.

We skipped a few lessons, and worked together to get ourselves turned around and back out the door. The laundry might not all be in the correct drawers, the classes were missed, the lunch boxes still aren’t unpacked/repacked for tomorrow. But we all had smiles and cheerful attitudes as we pulled out of the driveway on time, maybe even early.

To celebrate our mini conquering of today, we went out, as a whole family, for dinner. We played eye-spy waiting for our food, we giggled over Momma and Papa stealing French fries, we arrived home with time for a little cuddles and homework. And we breathed. 

After arriving home, I still started a load of laundry, stoked the stove, closed up the chicken coop, emptied the water bottles, sorted through the school  folders and made bread for lunches.

 

fresh from the oven and topped with butter
 
 I even got inspired and set two pans of cinnamon rolls to rise in the fridge overnight for breakfast…

all set to rise, ready to start a new day…

 

It is coming

It is coming! What is coming? It is coming! What is coming?

   
You must be patient and then you will see. You must let go, and let it be. You must go with the flow. Let the seasons take their course. Be one with the universe. Stop fighting and striving and battling and it will come to you.

Deep in the earth, the ground is stirring. The sun shine is gaining strength. The birds are singing longer and louder. The snow is slowly receding.    The chickens can feel it and venture further from their house, sometimes getting stuck in a patch of green, surrounded by cold white expanses of snow. Then they must venture slowly and carefully over the frozen tundra to return to the softer earth. Or they suddenly take to flight, barely three feet off the ground as they leap from the hillside, trying to reach a thawed tract. 

The driveway is frozen, mud. The car leaves strangely morphed three dimensional impressions, resembling long dinosaur tracks, frozen in time. It is soft some afternoons as we slide in, but always thin, glassy, crackle in the morning as the car tires crunch through the glass-ice.   The return of life, small but hardy, reminds us that warmer days are coming. The sun will shine again  and the flowers will return, bringing butterflies and bees and beach days. New hope is flickering at the edges of the path.

 New beginning, new life, new opportunities, new directions to go if we choose to see them.  

 “Little Johny Jump-Up said it must be spring. I just saw a lady bug and heard a robin sing.”

Friday of February Vacation

Laundry story: I am going ‘cowboy’ in yoga pants and yesterday’s work-dirty sweatshirt, while my youngest daughter just threw the shirt she wore for an hour this morning, into the washing machine. The oldest has dressed the middle child in her ‘make over’ clothes for the second time today. And I am washing three basketball jerseys, three shorts and six pairs of socks, along with three pairs of ballet tights, four leotards and two pairs of jazz/yoga pants in preparation for the coming week.

Food episode: they are officially tired of mac and cheese, but refuse to try a tuna melt. We have gone through three jars of pickles and two gallons of milk in seven days. A Valentine’s cake covered in more sprinkles than frosting, and made the day after Valentine’s Day, is half eaten on the kitchen counter. And I am eating a homemade  pulled pork sandwich for the third day in a row, but at least on homemade bread. 

Outside clothes tales: two pairs of mud covered snow pants hang on the clothes line over the stove. Three pairs of boots stuffed with newspaper adorn the woodstove hearth along with a few stray mittens and a scarf. The entryway is a landmine of high heels, pink crocs, sneakers, and water stained Bear Paws. And a pair of LL Bean mittens is frozen to the front steps next to a ‘balloon luminary’ remnant. 

Living room report: Lego castles have started to crumble into the ‘nail salon’ laid out this morning. The whiteboard has math problems intermingled with princess dresses and tic-tac-toe. The bunnies are resting in the corner of their cage after days of cuddling, carrying, and being dressing up like babies. And the sofa has become a library of Fairy Magic, Magic Tree House, and Warrior books along with Bad Kitty picture books and fancy coloring books.

So let’s go visit Papa at work.
Some slight exaggeration for effect, as these did not all happen just today…

Vacation planning 

I am a planner. I don’t write my plans out in a three ring binder, or keep meticulous notes on what chores are assigned to each day of the week. But, I like to have a plan (when I can), I like to follow the plan (when I am uninterrupted), I like to see the plan come to fruition (when everything goes ‘right’).

This week is vacation from school. This week I tried to not have plans. This week’s plans were to sleep, fold laundry and recharge. In the back of my mind I still thought of skeletal plans. I still saw all the vacation activities around town that I should take my girls to see. I still remembered the great vacations we have had other February vacations. I tried hard not to plan. I tried to go with the flow. 

   

So, I cleaned and organized this fallen disaster that I did not plan. This is a ‘shoe holder’ that is used for art supplies, small toys, little games, play phones, and…junk. I did not plan to organize this catastrophe. 

I planned on organizing my eldest’s sweaters. I planned on sorting through bathing suits and mittens. I planned on getting all the sheet sets organized and folded into their matching pillow cases like the picture on Pinterest. I planned on sledding in the backyard or basketball in the driveway.

The universe had other plans. 

(So far, the universe’s ‘other plans’ have worked out pretty good. And THIS is an important life lesson I am trying to learn: a plan is a guideline, not a formula. There are still many days of vacation left, much laundry still to fold, and new things to not plan for that have yet to unfold.)

Some things never change

Several years ago, I started a web site, a blog and a home business. At the time my three children were barely in school full time. I have recently revisited this old blog and find myself laughing and completely relating. Here is one so such story which could have just been written yesterday!
Super lip gloss from Busy Bee Momma

Super Lip Gloss: 3/30/2013

Maine winters can be cold, but also dry. In our house we constantly have a wood stove chugging out heat 24/7. And at least three times a day I refill the black cast iron pot, that has made a permanent water ring on the stone stove. With three little people we also have many Chapsticks, but usually none to be found when you need it. If I thought to look in the toy box, the sofa cushions or the puzzle cupboard I might find ten. But usually I look on the kitchen counter, the bathroom accessories tray, or my purse. If I were to find one in any of these places, it would most likely not only be slightly mutilated, but also probably some very strange flavor like chocolate fudge, or strawberry-kiwi, or razzle-dazzle sparkle berry. None of which really appeals to me for putting on my face, directly under my nose, or to be seen in public with that much color or sparkly lip bling. 

After making it through one winter month with my own lips very dry and those of my children cracking and looking painful, I decided to stash a secret Chapstick in the kitchen. I found a spot nobody but me would think to look because of its height. It is slightly above the kitchen sink, on a small corner shelf that is eye level to me, and me only. It is too low to catch my husband’s attention and way out of the little people’s reach. Behind a decorative beer stein on this shelf, I stashed a plain black wrappered Chapstick. Now, when I see the children’s lips starting to dry and harden, I can sneak out the hidden stash, apply it myself to the affected daughter, and then quickly return it to the spot behind the beer stein. It is also there for those times when I might need a little lip healing before the corners of my mouth crack while trying to bite into my lunch in February. 

This has worked for most of the winter. But one day I was applying some nice plain, unflavored or colored Chapstick to my own self when I noticed the end was near. The bottom knob would turn and turn, but the top was not going to advance any further. For very selfish reasons, we made a stop at the local five and dime drug store on the way home from school that day. I bought everybody more Chapstick! There was green and red and blue tubes, enough for all the girls to each have one, and me as well. Obviously, their Chapsticks were flavored or sparkly, while mine was plain original, again. But for some reason, completely unbeknownst to my consciousness, I put my Chapstick into my jeans pocket, just like my three girls did.

Later that week, I remembered. And I needed something for my lips which were, of course, starting to dry out with a coming cold caught from one of my small germ factories. This is after many loads of laundry, many sittings on the couch, and plenty of going here, there and everywhere. Surprisingly, my Chapstick was not to be found; not in any pocket, bedside stand, kitchen countertop, crayon box, dollhouse or in any of the multitude of small purses that find their way to our house. I did find a green minty Chapstick, which worked well, but was a little spicy, actually. It did the trick for the time being, but would not replace my plain black wrapper. After using the green mint version, I left it on the living room coffee table for the children to find, and then argue over whom it actually, originally belonged to, and who was going to now lay full claim to owning and not sharing.

For the next week I fought off the mid-winter cold threatening to crack my lips. And I fought to find that replacement Chapstick I had bought. But I didn’t. Instead, I fixed several cracked teacups with superglue and loaded the whole family up with vitamin C to ward off the impending cold. The glue held, and the cups were filled with soothing tea that helped to cure the colds and the add steam to the dry winter air. 

Several weeks later, I absentmindedly reached for Chapstick in my old hiding spot. It had not magically returned itself, but I did find a tube of cracked lip sealer. The superglue.

Have I learned anything in these past three years? Have I increased the number of available lip balms in my secret spot? Have I started keeping multiple hiding spots? Have the children become more aware of putting things back  when they finish using them? Here it is midwinter once again. The season of seriously chapped lips is upon us with the bitter cold, sub-zero days. Have things changed? No, no they have not. (Although my personal choice in lip balm has changed brand.)  

local made, mom-business lip balm has replaced Chapstick

I still keep my lip balm in the same place, and just last week I found it strangely missing. This time, it was found in my jeans pocket as I had taken it to work. But today, I have once again lost MY lip balm and had to use bubblegum pink Baby Lips. And although my lips were pink and I had a strange yearning for Bubblicious, they were still dry.

But, I do now know where to look for a quick replacement or replenishment of my stash, that fourth (big) child has his own stash of Chapstick in his desk drawer at work.

The night I sent my seven year old to bed hungry

It wasn’t that she didn’t eat her dinner or that I didn’t serve food she likes to eat. It wasn’t that she was horribly behaved and was sent to her room without  the opportunity to eat. I served all three children a well rounded, child friendly, enjoyable meal at 5pm, (which was  a little early by our standards) before dance class, a grocery trip and basketball practices. Then the littlest muffin and I chilled at home with reading, games, PBS, and a lovely bowl of soup for mommy. She chose to wait  until it was well PAST time, as we were heading to bed to tell me she was “starving, and she hadn’t eaten anything for dinner yet…”

But now, hours later and moments before I head to bed, I am struck with a sudden slight hunger pang myself. Being an adult, rather than a whiney child, I can go to the kitchen to get a few handfuls of chips, or a cookie, or maybe a piece of cheese, all the while knowing I have eaten well most of the day and a small snack will tide me over till morning.  I will then happily and quietly brush my teeth and head to bed. A child, MY child, on the other hand will hem and haw about WHAT to eat, argue about sugary or healthy, then the process of which plate, bowl or cup, and finally the actual eating (or not eating) of said snack, which may take at least good hour while bed time slips by the way side. 

When I did not cave to my child’s sad requests for food, we went upstairs to brush teeth and read stories. The extreme hunger was forgotten as I held her on my lap to check that all her teeth were clean, as well as when we snuggled and giggled reading her favorite chapter book for 15 minutes. It was after all that, as I reached for the light switch that she remembered her sad plight and resumed her case for food (or for just not going to sleep). Some crying and an attempt at reasoning with me, was followed by pouting, and then quiet. We lay for a while, snuggled and still…almost ten minutes actually. I drifted off to light sleep, only to be awaken by her asking if five minutes (our magic amount of ‘try to go to sleep’ time) had gone by yet. Then the battle resumed its downward spiral.

In the end, I let her come back down and get a small green salad, (like her sisters who were out late at basketball practice and ballet lessons). This came at the expense of me not returning upstairs with her to read more books, or hold her hand for another 10 minutes (while she came up with other reasons not to sleep). She had already cried over this choice while we were laying snuggled in her bed the first time. A tough choice for a little person: food to feed my body, or comfort to feed my soul?

So now, I feel guilty. She was just a little hungry, just needed a little more momma time, just made a bad use of her evening time. I feel like the mean old mommy who never gives love to the poor, sad child. I could have laid back down with her, and reassured her I was always there for her. I could have given her the salad when she first said she was starving and didn’t get any dinner. I could have let her eat a few crackers in bed while I read her the story. I could have, but I didn’t. 

What I think I did was teach her gently that we can’t always have everything, but we will survive. Things might not always go our way, but we can still be happy (be getting enough sleep) with our over all life. And also, that there are tough choices in life, with clear boundaries and limits. Then again, I may have taught her to whine and cry until you get what you want and that mommy can get so mad that she doesn’t love you anymore to snuggle you to sleep…

Once again I am faced with the balancing act, their needs against my needs, their choices against my choices, trying to help them to learn important lessons while also reassuring them they are unconditionally loved. Someday, someday, I might find the balance and the peace. Tonight, I question, and wonder, and second guess my parenting. Tonight I close my eyes and remind myself I am doing my best and still trying to do better.

Snow gathering

I stand by my chicken coop in the gently drifting evening snow, listening to my children squeal with laughter and delight as they run through the snowy darkness. At the top of the hill, I briefly see my husband’s silhouette stacking wood, more and more wood.

  
In two days building supplies will be delivered to update his woodworking shop. Today it snowed. I didn’t expect it to ‘really’ snow, or accumulate until well into the night. The weather had other plans. The weather thought it would be fun to cover the world with wet, packable, slippery snow accumulating on roads and cars as the work day drew to a close. 

We still had the last, small pile of wood on the far edge of the driveway to stack, somewhere. In October and November, we stacked as much seasoned wood as we could, into our pallet made wood crib. The remainder was pushed off to the part of the driveway we don’t use for parking or playing. 

Now, as the (late) dinner hour approaches, and animals need tending, and the children begin to run wild, my husband is finishing the job he set out to do, not just hours ago, but weeks and months ago: clearing the driveway of all the wood and straggling summer paraphernalia. He has meant to work on this project after work, Saturday afternoon, next weekend, or after we get the kids to bed. Something always came up, or we otherwise changed the plan. Now with this heavy snow falling and piling up quickly, the plow man will be here soon. The driveway needs to be plowable: cleared of wood pieces, sand buckets, bicycles, and lumber supplies. 

     

I paused from helping stack the wood to finish my first evening chore and have tucked the chickens into their cozy little coop. Their curtain is drawn and their food and water are refilled for the night, and ready for the morning. A glimmer of light sneaks out the edge of the door and from around the curtain. The world around me is quiet, full, peaceful, vibrant  and yet fleeting. We work, and toil, and try, but still more squeezes out the edges of our life. More chores, more piles of things, more things we must do, more and more. I cannot hold it all. I cannot do it all.

The children’s laughter pulls me back to the moment. Dinner must be made, I should help him move the wood, laundry needs to be washed for tomorrow’s after school activities, the cat and bunnies still need feeding up in the house. Here, now, this is where I must focus and keep trying. I must give it my best, try my hardest, juggle all the needs of the family. The children’s sheer joy at snow falling reminds me, though, that it does not all have to be hard, grueling and exhausting. Although I struggle to do it all, I need to also see the joy in the moment. I need to let some slip around the corners and out into the world. I need to let that go, not aim for perfection. Instead I must aim for love and peace.

As I trudge through the deepening snow, I look up and see the bright light shining from the house. The love I put into my family and our life is spreading forth into the world and shining as a beacon bringing me back…home.