18 May 2016

She Gave Me Good Advice

My kids do a lot of chores--and don't get paid for them--so it surprised me when my mom told me I'm doing too much and should delegate more to them.  This will not only take weight off of me, it will also teach responsibility and life skills, which is obviously a win-win.

That sounded like solid advice, so I took it.  From now on, these are (paid!) job opportunities* in this house:

~cleaning out the fridge, wiping down shelves, and organizing the contents

~cleaning baseboards, window blinds, ceiling fans, and vents

~cleaning the hallway bathroom

~watering the outdoor container plants

~cleaning the oven, microwave interior, cabinet faces, utensil drawers

~vacuuming the car

~tidying the garage

And so on!  These are all the jobs that need to be done occasionally but aren't part of the kids' Saturday housecleaning chores.  Why I thought I needed to be the only one doing them, I have no idea.

Today I seized the moment and offered Caiden $2 to clean the fridge.  He felt like that was a little cheap, until I explained that it's a paid job opportunity but can also be free labor for complainers.  He quickly realized the practicality of getting to work, earned his $2, and I mentally patted both myself and my mom on our backs.

*There are also unpaid jobs soon to be delegated:  making the nightly salad, prepping veggies for snacks after grocery shopping, copying math workbook pages, and planning meals.  And more as I get inspired!

Thanks, Mom.  Good advice.  Feel free to keep those good ideas coming!

16 May 2016

On Non-Productivity

I'm finding myself in a nearly-empty house this afternoon.  This almost never happens.  Pace took the bigger kids out on the boat to fish, and Sarah Grace conveniently needed to go down for a nap.  I'm enjoying this moment of solitude while sitting in my bedroom armchair, gazing at all the green outside my window, and plotting what to do with the next two hours.

I know people who use these moments to Get Stuff Done.  I am not one of those people.  I believe laundry, grocery shopping, and floor mopping are all done best when the house is full of people and there is nothing more fun worth doing.  When everybody is gone or asleep, I play.  This is when I take a luxurious afternoon bath with a good book, background cello music, and enough ice water to allow me to soak in a too-hot tub for a really long time.  Or when I watch an episode of "Foyle's War" while knitting the shawl that will never be done.  It's when I sit very quietly and take tiny bites of dark chocolate and think about things.  This is not when I catch up on bills or filing or whatever else is not fun.

Last night the kids were supposed to go to bed but somehow we all ended up downstairs stretching.  It was very odd and I'm not sure what started it, but soon we were comparing our strengths and weaknesses.  We discovered that Addie can sit butterfly style with her toes touching her body, her knees on the ground, and her face flat on the floor.  I can do a toe touch and press my nose to my knees.  Caiden, however, has abnormally tight reflexes and cannot touch his toes at all, which is probably not good but makes us laugh every time he tries.  So he impressed us with his ab strength  instead.

There was a kitchen to be cleaned upstairs and laundry to be folded, but having an impromptu family stretch (or not stretch, as in Caiden's case) session was a better choice.  These kids are growing up so fast, and it will not be long before I can't convince my kids to simply hang out with me doing weird stuff.  They'll be heading to jobs or classes or their own families, and I'll have all the free time I want, but it won't be with them.  Some days that sounds nice, but overall I know I will miss these years where everybody is home and we're a team.

I have an acquaintance who talks a lot about how busy she is, and how she never has time for anything fun.  I think there are probably people who face that reality, like single moms working full-time jobs and juggling raising kids and finishing their degrees at the same time, but the truth is, that's not my friend's reality.  She works part time and her kids go to school.  She has a lot of free time, but she doesn't see it.  Instead, she complains that she wishes she could do fun things like read books or make things, but she never has time.  I don't have the heart to explain to her that I have twice as many children (who never leave for school), that educating them definitely qualifies as a part-time job, and that helping my husband start a church is like another part-time job for me.  Yet I find the time to read books, make things, run, and sit still every afternoon for at least a little while, because that is really important to me.  We somehow make time for what we value.

The truth is, I don't want to resent my life's circumstances, never finding the time to do things that fill me up.  I also don't want to spend all my time cleaning and filing and folding and weeding and running errands.  Neither one of those is a healthy way to live.  A different friend recently asked me how an introvert is able to homeschool without losing her mind.  I simply told her, "lots of chocolate," but that's the funny answer, not the real one.

The real answer is that I have to do two things:  First, I have to recognize that my life will not look like my friends' whose kids go to school.  Not only are my kids home, making messes and noise, but they also need me to help with their education.  It's a double whammy.  More work + more work.  I cannot resent this fact, or I will be grumpy all the time, complaining about what I can't do.  Every choice eliminates options, and the truth is that choosing to homeschool your kids means you give up other things for awhile.  But you also gain some things by having your kids home with you, living a very flexible schedule.  Having a correct perspective is the key.

Second, I have to embrace the moments I do have.  That's why I don't do chores or other work during nap time.  Having an hour or two to myself to just be Sarah, not Mom or Homeschooler of Pastor's Wife or whatever, is essential.  Everything else can wait.  Last time I checked, Mount Laundry didn't simply disappear.  It'll still be there, even after I do all the laundry!  It's a scientific fact.  Embracing what I have means I get up early so I can run before breakfast, which means I go to bed around 10:30 so I'm not chronically tired.  I don't watch much TV at all, and that gives me the time to read every night.  We sometimes ditch school entirely and spend the morning at the library instead, or we head to a nearby forest or park to climb hills and play cops and robbers.  My kids need to know that while it's important to be faithful in our work, it's also important to sometimes let the to do list go, and embrace a moment.

I am not always good at remembering these things, which is why I'm using today's nap time to write them out.  It's to remind myself that life is better when embraced, that complaining about my life is not only a waste of energy and an insult to the One who gives me everything, but is annoying to those around me and destroys my perspective.  It's to remind myself that there are no prizes given for spotless counters, carpet with vacuum lines, or organized garages.  Perfection is nobody's friend, and expecting it from myself or others is ridiculous.

So yes, it's 3:30 and I'm still in sweaty running clothes, sitting here in my bedroom.  My bed is made but I haven't even unpacked from my trip to Seattle, and there are weird things on my bedroom carpet that look suspiciously like crushed geranium petals that an anonymous three year old must be responsible for bringing inside.  I'm ignoring both.  I think I'll go take a bath instead--I might even get crazy and eat dark chocolate at the same time--and enjoy today.  Life is short and it's a gift.  It's my choice to embrace it, packed bags and weird carpet debris and all.

11 May 2016

Let's Talk About Stuff

Mexico:  That was fabulous.  Pace and I did absolutely nothing except eat, sleep, and read for five whole days, which felt decadent and rejuvenating and fairy-magical.  It was the first vacation of its sort we've ever gone on in 19 years of marriage, and we loved it.  I see why the whole all-inclusive beach thing is popular.  When I lived in Texas I never wanted to go to the beach (We were already too hot all the time!), but after 2 years in the Northwest, a hot and sunny beach suddenly sounds very nice this time of year.

Spring:  Spring is also fabulous.  I under appreciated spring in my years in the South (Rationale:  Spring is the harbinger of summer, and I hated summer.)  For the reason listed above, I now adore spring, especially since spring up here involves peonies, lilacs, lavender, hydrangea, and all sorts of other gorgeous flowering things that I couldn't grow down south.  My new yard is blooming with all kinds of beautiful things, and I go on walks just to check out my neighbors' plants and see what else I can grow here.  I haven't actually planted anything, but my hypothetical list is growing daily.

Addie:  Addie turned 10 on Mother's Day, which is nearly beyond my capacity to grasp.  How this girl is double digits already, I don't know.  After her very difficult first year (archives: May 2006), the last 9 have flown.  I can't say enough about her--she's possibly the world's easiest kid, mellow and compliant and can self-entertain for hours.  Seriously, give her a rock or balloon or white board or craft supplies and she will hole up in her bedroom for an entire afternoon.  She is quirky and funny and serious and my favorite 10 year old in the whole world.

Spring Reading:  Vacation was good for whittling down the nightstand stack.  "The Lake House," by Kate Morton--super fun read.  I loved it.  "The Orchardist," by Amanda Coplin, also loved it.  It takes place up in this area, so it was fun to read my town's name and feel sort of like a local.  "Messenger of Truth," another Maisie Dobbs novel--liked it, although sometimes I think Maisie would wear me out in real life.  Am I allowed to say that?  I love reading about her, but I don't know if I would think she's a very fun friend.  Now I'm reading something about a chicken farm and love, by P. G. Wodehouse, the author of the Jeeves books.  I'm actually reading it so I can hand it over to Caiden, who loves Wodehouse.  The first chapter made me laugh out loud, so I take that as a very good sign.

That's it for now.  I'm heading to Seattle in the morning for a couple days with a group of friends, which is very poor timing for my kids but very happy timing for me!  It's sunny and warm here, and the beautiful outdoors is beginning its siren call.  Before I know it, cooking and laundry and bill paying will all go out the window so we can play in the river and lakes all summer.  I'd better get done now what I can!

29 April 2016

One Thing at a Time

I sat down this afternoon and jotted down the list of what needs to be accomplished before I head out on our vacation.  It is a Long List and Quite Intimidating:

Bake Addie's birthday cake  (Coconut, from scratch--yum!!) and freeze

Write menu & buy groceries

Write Mom's house/child/pet/flowercare notes

Clean house


Wash sheets

Write kids' school spirals for next week

Check car

Wash all laundry

Have Mother's Day gifts ready

Have kids ready for church by Saturday night

Thaw cinnamon rolls

Mail bills

Return library books

Water porch flowers

Mow lawn

Email small group leaders

Yes, that is a lot to do in the next 24 hours.  (Let's be realistic:  14 hours, because I am going out to dinner tonight with friends and also need to sleep.)  Addie's 10th birthday/Mother's Day is the morning after we return from Mexico, so I need to be ready for both before I leave, adding to the work of leaving four kids and three pets with my parents for a week.  I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be a breathless marathon.  Most importantly, I don't have my right-hand man, Caiden, here to help because he's on his way to Seattle with his water polo team for a tournament.

But that's okay.  I'm pretty sure all the work will be worth it, in exchange for a child-free, pet-free, work-free week at the beach with Pace.  I have already set aside the books I'm taking, and really, what else does one need?  Not much.  A swimsuit, some sandals, and sunglasses.  (And a sunhat and sunscreen, because I am not a fan of wrinkles or cancer.)   I think I just scratched "Pack" off the list.

Happy almost-the-end-of-April, and I'll see you in May!  

27 April 2016

April Days

This is a mouse-making, flower-planting, book-reading, trip preparing kind of week.  I am getting ready for Addie's 10th birthday before our vacation to the beach, as we return the night before her Mother's Day birthday.   It's hard to believe our girl is turning 10.  

Most of the porch flowerpots have been planted.  Front porches here are Serious Business, with nearly every house in our area having one.  Ours is deep and very private, thanks to a tree planted right at the corner, which increases our porch time--we can hang out there in robes and nobody can see us.  I ordered a new rug and a double-wide rocker that hasn't arrived yet and bought a few massive hanging baskets from Caiden's water polo team (Now that's a much more useful fundraiser than selling raffle tickets!) that should be delivered while I'm in Mexico.  Memorial Day bunting for the railing is next on the list.  I love getting the porch ready for summer.  We spend most of our morning and evening hours out there once it's warm enough.

I have to finish stitching a tiny pair of green Wellies for Hazel Mouse, write notes for my mother who's keeping the kids all next week, return late-as-usual library books, and bake a coconut cake for Addie to keep frozen at my mother's while we're gone.  Also on the list:  take lots of walks down lilac-scented paths before the blossoms drop, get Caiden ready for his Seattle weekend at a water polo tournament, and make the hard decision of which books to take on my trip.