Tag Archives: housework

Real Life

butterflies-cute-jar-junel-nature-Favim.com-142556I fell to sleep at 2:00 a.m. last night after being pretty shaken up by the recent death of a dear mentor from my past, Don Rhymer, who encouraged me as a Young Life staff person in my newlywed days.  Married for 29 years and father to 3 really neat kids, he was truly an example of a man who lived a good life of strong faith and great relationships. He was one of those people I said goodbye to in California and hoped to spend time with again in future days.  He was a good man.  You can read his story here http://radiatedon.com. (warning, he has a great sense of humor, you’ll laugh through tears at his writing)

Eyes swollen from crying, I was woken again just before 4:00 as my 2 year old wanted me to come cuddle with her.  My baby chimed in wanting to be nursed, so he and I crawled into bed with her and I tried to sleep while she tossed and turned and he suckled. At 4:25, she started to choke and spew throw-up into the air, all over me and the baby and I leapt into action, babe still attached, calling to my husband for back-up.  Just one of many crazy days of parenting.

Still, it is a pretty great life I have.  I don’t say that as a trite response to hardship, nor to brag, nor because it is perfect.  It is far from perfect.  I am sleep deprived and a little spacey at best, impatient and crabby at my worst.  I take a shower an average of a few times a week, and I am usually wearing a shirt with day old spit-up (I know, gross huh?).  I figure with mountains of laundry, why make more?  We have some business concerns that feel pretty daunting.  My marriage, sayeth the marriage and family therapist, is not at it’s best.  We are in that post-baby, well post stressful-summer –  heck let’s just be real honest and say post-becoming-a-pastor’s-family (there should be a term for that) – season of busy life where we are looking across at the person we most cherish and adore and thinking “Hey, you look familiar? Do I know you? We should hang out sometime.”  Who has any time?

Especially those crazy folk like us who keep having all these kids.  And speaking of kids, on a regular basis we worry about them, that one or more of our children is doomed for jail, the psych-ward or the streets. Obviously I exaggerate, but you know what I mean parents out there.  I could go on with a myriad of worries, imperfections, faults and failures, but what I am overwhelmed with right now is what a great life I have.  I don’t say that without the awareness that there are those who suffer, really truly suffer from very hard things, and my concerns really are very small in comparison.  But probably because my life is so far from perfect, there are divine moments where huge gratitude over something very small overtakes me, and it keeps me going.

It happened when I was holding my fussing baby today, doing what I could to help him fall to sleep.  My two year old was just lulled to napping down the hall.  My baby’s cries softened with each of my bounces.  His sweet face burying into the space between my arm and ribcage to try and block out the world. Eyes roll back, then closing, and the big sigh of sleep breathing taking over.  Isn’t naptime the best? I am standing in the quiet of my room and glance over at the big comfy white chair near the window, where I rarely have time to sit these days, and then over to the row of books beside it.  The one on the end is my favorite, Great With Child by Debra Rienstra.  On the cover a glowing belly bulges from under a soft shirt.  Her posture is laid back, relaxed, contemplative in it’s pose. My heart warms at the idea of sitting in that chair for a few moments to read it – once both my little ones are napping, just before the big kids get home from school, when the laundry is done, the meals are cooked, the clothes mended, the children listened to, played with, kissed and held and loved, and well, probably never, or at least maybe not for 5 years or so.  It would be pure indulgence!

And it is just the possibility of that moment that fills me with gratitude.  Because really I could sit and read, and sometimes I do, when everyone is all tucked in for the night and I am feeling rebellious enough to leave some of the work of all this for tomorrow.  It is not often, but that’s okay, because this will not always be and I try hard to remember what I know so well.  That nearly 9 year old down the hall used to be this small and I strain to remember the details to answer her request for stories of when she was little.  I wish we could go visit those long days of being a first time mom, when the road ahead seemed so long and full of unknowns.  I know these days pass by quickly and my ache to capture them is akin to gathering the scent of summer in a glass jar to carry me through winter.  Impossible.  I had two full journals and a detailed baby book written to my daughter by the time she turned one.  This little guy’s baby book stares blankly at me by my bedside table.  How do I start, when I know it will end?  I take pictures, thousands of them, and they sit frozen on my phone and computer.  What is it now, 20 cumulative years of photo memory books for each year of my children’s lives to complete?  Huh, maybe I should let that one go.  But that kind of makes my heart hurt and my lungs get tight.  They will grow up too fast, and cliche beyond cliches, I know I will miss these precious days.

And so I look with a big heart of hope at that favorite book of mine, knowing one day I will have time to read it again, and if the day is not today, it is for damn good reason. Because the endless mundane and meaningless laundry means my kids have lived a good day and will be clothed tomorrow.  The meals that come together without too much creativity these days, means their bodies are nourished to grow and be healthy.  The listening and the mending and the kissing of owies and the reading of stories and the cleaning up throw-up and the work work work of it all is so very worth the opportunity to nurture these most precious souls for a season. When my house is empty and quiet for years to come, creating those photo books won’t mean I am ignoring a little voice or risking more sleep deprivation.  I am not sure I will be able to bear it then, taking in all that has passed, so for today, I try to breath deep into my imperfect life and take in the scent of a very good season.

Don, it would be a gift to know you were hanging out with my Fisher in heaven.  He would be almost four now and I am sure he’d get a kick out of being your buddy.  I wish all my kids could have met you.


Little Things, Never to Forget

I want to memorize the length between the lower curve of your plump bun and the back of your knee.  It can’t be more than 3 1/2 inches and then another to your pudgy bare foot.  One little lovable chunk of you that will too soon be long and lean like your sister’s.  Your voice is elf-like, high pitched, sing-song, curious and amazed at most things you speak to these days.  Unless it’s a command to “ho-d you me” “cuddew me” or a sweet whispered “wove you mama.”  Then your voice is deep and a bit raspy, possibly a glimpse of you at 12 or 24.  Or it’s a scream that accompanies a temper tantrum, full of life, fierce for that one thing you are wanting to have or do with your little strong body that I can barely redirect anymore with any sort of ease.  You have more passion and persistence than I have yet to witness in a child and I thank God you are my 4th, 3rd to make it to age 2, because I have far more experience, patience and tolerance for this age of big frustrations for you.  I get you though, I see your heart and know how badly you want to live by it and I adore that about you.  I pray regularly for the ability to encourage your full fledged self and help you harness your wildness in ways that will serve you well in life.  I can be exasperated and at the end of my rope with you and in the very same moment look into your tear filled fierce full brown eyes and be so overwhelmed with love for this full of life child I get to call mine.  You’re 2 1/2- delightfully, frustratingly, preciously, lovingly 2 1/2 and I don’t ever want to forget any bit or piece of this time with you.

“Mama, I feel like I haven’t had much time with just you and me lately.  Will you read my Pippi Longstocking book with me?” came the invitation from my girl who reads long chapter books within a few hours, has completed the Laura Ingalls Wilder series a few times over now and would choose to cozy up with a book over kicking a ball outside with her little brother any day.  Feeling lucky you would ask, I left the chore of the moment, looked past the end of day messes to be tackled, and joined you on the couch where it was quiet, away from a little brother and sister who were upstairs getting ready for bed with Papa, a rare brief moment with just you.  I pulled a blanket over us and your head leaned into mine as I started to read where you left off on page 103.  When a sound or my trailing tired thoughts cause me to pause, you put a finger to the word I stopped on and I am tempted to ask if you want to be the one to continue.  But I can tell you are 3 again, in preschool when you were the last kid to want to leave the reading circle while your teacher read the story of the day.  You’re 5, in kindergarten refusing to try and learn to read because it’s far more enjoyable to listen to the story than struggle to sound out syllables.  Now you’re 8 and it has come so fast, consuming more literature on your own than we ever have together in our sacred nightly ritual of bedtime stories before prayers and cuddles.  There is so much within your mind and world that I am not privy to any longer and I know that will only increase, naturally, as it should, but still I feel a bit left out not knowing so much of your thoughts and stories no matter how much I try to be intentional and ask.  So I am feeling nothing less than lucky to be invited into your most favorite past time, a world nearly as magical as this moment with you.

You’re 6 my son, and growing so quickly that your naturally athletic, amazingly coordinated body is a bit clumsier than usual.  You bump into corners and misjudge stairs and your tears are the same as when you were 4, so sad and so hurt.  I go to comfort you, hold you awkwardly on my 8 months pregnant belly and kiss your hurt places.  How much longer will I get to do that and it will help?  I appeal to your growing intellect as well with empathic words about your body changing and therefore you naturally get awkward for a while.  I am dealing with that too, I say smiling with my big belly, it’s not easy at first when our bodies grow but then we get used to them again.  You smile back at me and run off again full speed.  Later you take a break from your full-of-energy play and join me in the kitchen on a stool next to the counter where I am doing dishes.

“Mama, is it hard work being a mama by yourself when you have a baby in your belly?”  This is the season when your papa works long days, or is gone away for weeks at a time and you are ever the perceptive one. I have been tired, but conscientious about taking time for fun and for rest and building a rhythm that honors all of our growing bodies.

“Sometimes it is, but it is my favorite work I get to do,” I respond emphatically. I put down the dish I am scrubbing and turn to you perched on the barstool across the counter from me “Why do you ask?” I say, fearing I may have made you feel like a burden in some way.

You look out the window, and off into your mind say, “I am just thinking about the kind of dad I want to be someday.”   After a few moments you turn back to me “like making breakfasts like papa does when he’s home and you need some extra sleep.  I want to do things like that.”

Really, at six you’re thinking about this?  My perceptive, empathic child.

I get a big hug from you around my big belly, and a knowing look of love and gratitude for the baby brother you’ve been longing for all these years too, and off you go again outside to your adventures.

You would be 3 1/2 my sweet boy.  I have no pictures of these days and years I would have had with you.  No memories to try to cherish and hold onto.  Just 9 months in my belly and that one day, when you lay peaceful and breathless in my arms, when I could hardly breath.  I would give anything to have you now, even to have that one day when I got to hold and memorize you, terrible and exquisite as that day was.  My heart still aches beyond measure to know you my love.

Who would you be now?  Quiet and kind-hearted as your big sister?  Energetic and empathic as your big brother?  Wild and delightful as your little sister?  I can only daydream of who you would be, knowing full well you’d be something all your own entirely.  Oh and that hurts, so deeply, to not know and to wonder.  To have conceived and formed and grown you to fullness, to empty my womb when emptying is meant to bring life, only to tell you goodbye, still, always, leaves me hurting and longing.

 

My love is so big and full for you, even as I grasp to remember the details of you, details that are nothing to the joy it would be to hold you breathing in my arms, run and play a game of chase with you, read stories that delight your mind and talk with you about who you dream to become.  Our family is big and growing, but always incomplete without you.  I yearn for heaven to know you.

Kiss my son for me dear Jesus, play and run and talk and be with him, delight in him and cherish him, and please tell him he is loved beyond measure, each and every day until I am able to say it with you.

Thank you, for each of them my Lord.


Little Voices

Her words are forming more intellectual these days.  His is losing the charming accent of unpronounced letters.  The littlest, nearing two, is rambling sounds of increasingly recognizable forms of communication.  This, that is so often the background noise, I notice new.  As if the violin of the practicing symphony suddenly comes forth clear with a melody, then the cello chiming deeper with punctuated profundity, the fluttery high pitches of the flute weaving in and out, up and down so whimsical, on one of our many car rides to everywhere and nowhere at all.   For this moment, only this seems to matter.  It is the music, all of it music, if I am listening.

So often I am not though.  The things I “must do” cloud my mind, clog my ears, and fills the space for sound in my head.

Need to get to those e-mails – so many half conversation waiting for a response.  How many am I forgetting that have slithered too far down on my screen, out of sight out of mind?  Think.  Think.  Oh I used to be so reliable.  Speaking of reliable, so many things I am not getting done.  Must do.  Must do.  What am I really doing with my life?  What is my purpose?  Sorry I ask that God.  I know I am yours.  What have You made me to do?  I love doing this and that, but there’s more, always more that I have no time for.  So many things I am passionate about, so many things can feel purposeful.   More time.  More time.  I long for more, and less, all at once.  Downtime!  That is what I need.  Time to get lost in something creative, a good book, a nap.  Push pause, that is what I will do, I will nap when my baby naps today.  Or maybe write a book chapter!  That would be fun.  But that would be work.  But meaningful, so much more meaningful than the breakfast dishes and crumb laden floor waiting at home for me. Oh and that laundry that is waiting to be put away.  Who am I, to think I can get anything done beyond this?  Who am I created to be?  Dear Lord, who do You want me to be? What do you want me to be about? I want to live that out, I just don’t always know how, or I know too many ways how…eggs, can’t forget to get eggs today.  What else do we need at the grocery store?”  On and on I go.

So much noise in my head.  That practicing symphony of incongruous sounds sometimes sharp and self deprecating, sometimes growing melodic, appearing to go somewhere, until interruption of the next urgent sound breaks through.

“Mama?  Mama?”

“Yes” I say, and I listen.  I can hear this and know infinite worth.

I can hear little voices.  The one who uses big words. The one who likes to tell long stories.  The one whose notes reach such varied heights I could plot them on a music bar for quite the cantata.

Too often, their sounds blend into the noise of my head and I don’t really hear.  Facing forward, always driving, in this moment I can see only the beauty of their sounds, and I know where I am to go.

Melodic, heart piercing sounds that I know so well I sometimes forget to take it all in.  Tomorrow syllables will form words, high pitches will deepen from a fresh shaven face and spelling words will become essays of eloquence.  Where will this time have gone?  Like the vaporous mist that rises in the dawn of these chilly fall days, I hope to capture what I cannot keep.

Knowing I have these voices as they are, only today, fills and breaks my heart.  I will close my eyes, my mind, push pause on the background noise of everything else, and let these melodies fill my soul.


Choices

There is so much I want to write, so many stories half written, or logged in my brain, that I want to bring life to, that must be told. But alas I have children who wake early and am a mama who needs her sleep to be a good mama, especially when I am flying solo as a mama.

My husband left early for a business trip this morning. He’s a fisherman, so his standards for early are EARLY, because all potential breaks at first light.

I am not someone who particularly likes to get up early, but I can rally when I need to and can appreciate the possibility of a brand new day in a quiet house. This morning though I snuck out of bed as my husband showered to make him breakfast before he left. Not that he needs me to make him breakfast, he is perfectly capable, and in fact, we have things fairly well divided that I take the night shifts and he hits the morning time with the little ones. It was so early, and everyone had gotten to bed so late after an energy packed vacation that I figured I would creep back into bed afterwards and get a few more hours in before the kids would wake up.

You know what happens next.

At 5:15 the shower goes off and in the background I hear my baby squawking, ready for someone to come get her and give her some breakfast too. Plan B, feed her a quick meal, I have already cooked most of it off, and then slide her back into bed while I got my last delectable minutes of rest. We kissed papa goodbye, said our I love you’s and I cooled some of the hot meal for her to eat.

You know what happens next.

Pitter pat, drawers shut, and two puffy eyed, sunkissed faces make their way down the stairs and climb up onto chairs saying “I’m hungry.” With a hearty breakfast warm and waiting I dish everyone up. Then drinks, and lunch preparations, cleaning baby droppings off the floor, then the baby’s face, a hairdo for a big kid and a spelling test, morning prayers and memorizing verses and checking over home work and wiping noses and bottoms and overseeing teeth brushing and squeezing in a moment to make my cup of tea and everything that is so routine and mundane about our everyday lives.

And I am on the brink of tears I am so grateful to be doing it all. As the morning scurry hit full tide, my heart was swelling with gratitude to have these amazing children to love and care for and wake up early for and get up tirelessly for through the nights and not have time to write or create or finish nearly anything personal or professional in any way that I would hope to for this season of time, oh another 20 years or so.

I am so driven and so full of creative energy that it would be all too Pollyanna of me to say I can find all that to be fulfilled in parenting. It absolutely cannot, for me. But, and I’ll add on a great big although

THAT

IS

OKAY!

There were much more profound moments in my day – in my professional life, in some playtime with my son, coaching my daughter’s soccer practice and the conversation about friendship that followed, in the mistakes I made, where weaknesses are and the epiphanies and graces – things that make for a better story than this, but, as is my life, I have run out of time. My eyes are straining to stay open, my head is groggy and I can’t remember if I shut my daughter’s window so I must pull myself out of bed to check, gives me a reason to give one more round of kisses and tuck stray limbs into soft blankets and say soft prayers.

The choice I have here is to work at something creative and life-giving on another level, or go to sleep and be ready to love on and care for my babies all over again with the energy I need. I will choose sleep, praying for late sleepers tomorrow:)


Waiting to Begin

My kids love Camellia trees. The way they burst forth with a million blooms and drop them generously to the ground for little hands to gather in abundance entices my children every time they come across one. Seeing their joy and their beautiful bowls of blossoms throughout the house, I have told them “in our next house we will have a Camellia tree.”

When our real life begins.

Knowing we want to sell soon has kept us on hold. I don’t hang many pictures, keep things somewhat staged and worry about wall holes and the inevitable wear and tear that a young family brings to a home. I am ready to settle in, for a long time, hang the vacation pictures that only we care to see everyday, plant perennials and trees and look forward to how they will look next Spring, not care about those knicks and flaws of an energetic family life. I know how to paint and spackle, and will worry about that again when they are grown, as it will come too fast and the perfect looking house is not my goal.

The hope is to sell our house soon, to move further north, near the new church where ministry would feel more whole, closer to my elementary aged children’s school and with all the hopes that go along with change and possibility. We of course would like more; more space for our growing family, friends and guests to gather and play and be. We live on 40 acres for 3 months of the year and find it a nice balance to our postage stamp city yard. It is in our souls to crave space inside and out. We love to see our kids roam and run and explore and all of us absolutely love to host a house full of people.

So that is our hope, be it “grass is greener” and possibly covetous, we pray, and aim to be pure in out desires, are generous in our giving and seek to follow the unpredictable formula of our faith, knowing we don’t deserve and can’t plan such a thing. Still we believe God loves us and has good for us, not that we can begin to claim to know what that might be. At this stage of life I do know some of the ways in which God has given me to be in this world. Planning, organizing, hosting and giving to large gatherings is one of my things, dare I say gifts. God has always given us the ability and desire to do that, even in our 750 square foot first home where we would shove every piece of our living room furniture into the kitchen in order to host a whole group of high school kids and mayhem for Young Life. We know it can be done anywhere and by many means, but space is on our hearts.

The perfect house hit the market this week. An amazing huge house for our growing family, on a huge piece of property complete with rock patio, play structure, sport court and creek running through the back of the big grass expanse. Exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for, but all that we could hope for. There were faults to be sure, much work to do to make it the envisioned dream home, a few broken windows, no insulation, old crumbling bathrooms. We’d done this work before and despite one member of the couple dyad claiming he’d never do it again, he wasn’t deterred and spoke excitedly of all the potential.

We imagined preschoolers on bikes, and high schoolers shooting baskets, muddy boots stomping in the stream and our very own slide to whiz down over and over and over again. So many daydreams of craft projects in the unfinished attic, family dinners around the table that overlooked the patio and “very own rooms” for my oldest girl and boy who have always shared. From the kitchen window I saw a blue heron poised out by the stream and it felt like an omen. We see them so rarely, the presence of this peaceful beast of a bird was telling of the safe expanse of space tucked into a city we’d grown to love. As my daughter launched her umbrella upside down in the creek like a bobbing boat to my son waiting near a small foot bridge to rescue it, we oohed and awed over the landscaped yard, lovely trees and quaint old shed complete with fireplace, I saw it in the corner of the yard near the back of the living room window. A long-lived abundantly bloomed camellia tree. I took it as a sign this was meant to be.

It was seemingly so of God how I found the house, only a few days on the market and I happened to take a look at what was out there on a bit of whim. It had been many months since our house was last on the market and I had felt it worthwhile to search. We can’t buy until we sell, so it is not a good practice and really is a time waster to look. But I did, felt led to, and the timing was phenomenal since it would only be on the market for a few days before it would go into foreclosure. Being a short sale we could safely make an offer pull out at any time, and have many months to sell our house. The circumstances were just perfect, signs all along the way it seemed. We were told there would be one other offer but it wouldn’t be strong so we wrote ours full priced and with gusto. The house was worth so much more, but full price was right in our budget and had good stewardship in mind. “When we move into our new house…” was how we’d all started to talk. The signs were everywhere and the circumstances too perfect to not believe God was in this.

Just before we got the news, after a parenting seminar on how to raise boys, where advice about space and activity and adventure were the themes, we talked of how God might be at work. The realist of us said “I am not so sure God wants this for us, maybe His best for us is smaller, missionary work, less stuff, more about the eye of the needle than the life of abundance.”

The optimist theologian said “I was just thinking about how much God loves us, how much He has always blessed us with more than we could imagine, so why not now. again, even after we know how tragedy works?”

The call came at 9:30 that evening. The other offer was stronger and they’d accepted it. That was it. No counter offers. No second chances. The house was not going to be ours.

We were disappointed to be sure, and each had a few hours of funk over the course of the next day. We thought of all the possibility was gone, but, and not too soon to have been disappointed for a genuine bit of time, we realized that possibility also meant alot of work. We remembered the hours and hours we put into other houses when we’d rather have been enjoying fun and down time of from the already full work-week. We saw our kids getting older and all of us playing together outside but realized we’d be inside tediously replacing old plumbing and broken windows, or we wait years and years to afford help with it and live with the run down energy efficientlessness of the place. That can be wearisome too. Much as we were excited, much as we were disappointed and much as we saw God in all of it and therefore felt it was meant to be, we still could see God’s hand at work. This is really all I can ask for. For God to be in control is of course the given, but for God to let us have some awareness of that is a blessing. I can get on board with that.

Today I was at a gardening store where new plants were being brought in and a few winter plants were on clearance. The ever thrifty shopper that I am perused the winter plants rather aimlessly, knowing there was no good purpose in plant shopping in our impermanent state. Until I saw a just one Camellia tree, small enough for a good sized pot and still with a few large blooms waiting to burst. That felt like a sign too. I bought it.

Life in between can be lived well regardless of our circumstances. I will praise Him in all things and trust the days to come.


So much, adieu


There are cupcakes to be made,
by morning
like ice cream cones
with sprinkles
and glitter

It is late
in the silent house
where life was lived well today
full and loud
I shuffle around
the remains

dishes heaped
crumbs cling to feet
annoying
on the floor
desperate to be swept,
a days’ worth of grime
maybe two
on a high chair to scour.

piles,
piles,
in every nook
to fold
sort
organize
discard
check off
re-stack
ignore again.

e-mails
endless,
of course,
how many have I already forgotten
of the thousands saved for later
when there is more time
which is never
and work things
to do, to do

too many ideas
stirring, igniting, inspiring, weighing, waiting
to accomplish,
create,
take in,
complete
better
more fully
at all

I think at night
when silence allows
and other pieces of me creep out
like the playroom toys
that come alive and play about
while children are sleeping

She cries out
breaking through the thick fog of it all
at an hour I should be sleeping
she wakes me

calling me
to comfort

20 pounds
of sleepy unrest
renders me still
calm
rest as I rock
soothing I am soothed

I get to
hold
melt
kiss
feed

a soul

escape
from all that matters
so little

as nothing
NOTHING
more eminent than this.


Crumbs

Sometimes, sometimes, it is enough to just do the mundane chores of the day.

I returned to the sink tonight to wash a few more dishes for the umpteenth time this day, the 4th return this evening.  I’m on my own with my husband out of town and I just want to get every last dish washed before falling into bed, to start fresh tomorrow with one area of my life complete.

I am exhausted, falling asleep while I cuddled with my kids.  This long day follows a long night with a coughing boy and a wakeful baby. I hear all the sounds at night.

As I squeeze in every last plate and each small cup to the over-full dishwasher and open the lunch boxes to pull out remaining bits of food from eco-friendly travel containers that must be washed each day to be ready for the next, my thoughts went to the places where my children’s lives are lived; the playground and the lunchroom (did they laugh and eat well?), to our dinner table (did they feel loved and full?), to the days’ stories and smiles, and bits of nourishment we offer one another in everyday moments.

I am overcome with gratitude for these leftover crumbs, these remainders of my children’s day that let me know that their bellies were full, that they took life in and were fed, cared for.  It is one reason I exist.

The sounds of them breathing deeply, peacefully asleep, safe, alive and beautiful, in the background of my running water and quietly placed silverware, their soft skin still warming my cheeks, I breathe deep, knowing, it is all so very good.