This morning I felt like disappearing into music. I searched around for Lindi Ortega’s version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” and for some reason also felt like hearing Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” and I landed for awhile on Danny Michel’s beautiful and joyful new album “Black Birds Are Dancing Over Me.”
I haven’t been napping. It’s starting to show. Because, yes, I’m still getting up early four mornings a week to exercise, and the combination of less sleep and construction mayhem and zero power naps makes for a woman who looks just a little frayed around the edges.
Confession time. Come a little closer. Let me lay it on you: By early evening, my bark has bite. And the person most likely to be bitten is, well, my husband. He’s around, he’s a grownup, he’s probably doing something not to my (impossible) standards, and snap. Like that.
Yesterday evening, I arrived home from yoga, a two-hour out-of-the-house, happy alone time for me, which is made possible by him. (It’s also made possible by a ton of pre-planning by me). Anyway, I walked in the door, and the dishes were basically done, the school lunches had been made, and the children were upstairs in pajamas with brushed teeth. He was reading to the younger ones. What a lovely scene! All was well. All continued to be well as I did laundry, checked in with homework obligations (older children), and went through the necessary bedtime rituals with the younger ones. All was well until I came downstairs to get myself some supper. I was pretty hungry by this point, and, yes, flipping tired.
I opened the fridge. I saw before me a half-consumed jar of pearsauce. And … I just about lost my mind. Pearsauce!? The pearsauce I canned less than three weeks ago? Which I’d planned on serving in February when pears are but a distance memory? When WE STILL HAVE ACTUAL PEARS????? Yup. That was me. Losing it.
And this was him. Working away at the computer and blinking at me in silence. Really, what else could he do?
I sat down to my bowl of supper, still seething. (Side question: Am I crazy, or do others out there have ideas about when canned food should be eaten? Restrictions? Personally, I like to wait until the snow is falling).
Then I noticed it was time for the big kids to get to bed. “Could you go up and tell them?” I asked Kevin. Who responded, “This is the first time I’ve gotten to sit down since you left for yoga.” Yup, he was probably pissed about the pearsauce; or more precisely, about my reaction to the pearsauce. Which he’d served the children for bedtime snack. While I was at yoga. Having quiet alone time.
This is how wars start.
But off he went, to tell the kids to get to bed. I sat gobbling leftovers and muttering under my breath, Do you think I’m sitting down all day? You get home from work and I’ve got supper on the table and mumble mumble swim lessons! and mumble mumble porch guys here this morning and mumble trying to work and … add in a few choice swear words and you’ve got the picture. I’d dumped it out of my system by the time he came back downstairs. Well, almost. I managed to get in a good grouse this morning when serving the kids breakfast, reminded by the half-eaten jar in the fridge. I’m pretty sure none of them will be asking for canned pearsauce again until the snow flies.
Lest you think I’m all zen all the time. I’m not. And boy, do I need a nap.
(But isn’t that photo zen? Ah. Another one from our summer holiday.)
Problem: six-year-old’s pants no longer fit; discover salient fact at exact moment pantless child needs to be leaving for school; discover half a minute later that box in attic containing six-year-old hand-me-down clothes has next to no pants, oodles of pretty dresses
Solution: six-year-old leaves wearing pants that are slightly too big, but at least not too small; mama makes mental note to buy child more pants, preferably soft; mental note not good enough, should probably go on list; which list?
Problem: ten-year-old’s brand new labelled-as-non-marking shoes leave marks on gym floor, therefore ten-year-old can’t wear them as his indoor shoes (yes, the school requires children to have two pairs of shoes at all times, one for inside, the other for out); too late to go shoe shopping; old shoes wrecked and don’t fit
Solution: ten-year-old’s feet approximately same size as mama’s; ten-year-old agrees to wear mama’s old running shoes to school; but will this work for longer than one day?; mental note to add shoe-shopping to list (maybe); which list?
Problem: late bedtime due to late soccer practice and excursion to get binders that ten-year-old needs for school; three-year-old wakes incapable of speaking to anyone in tone other than grumpy, grouchy, or extremely put out; three-year-old threatens mutiny re attendance at nursery school
Solution: early to bed, early to bed, early to bed (mutters mama, thinking, oh dear, this is all on me tonight, as husband will be working late)
Problem: rising super-early to exercise, mama is Just Plain Tired by the time kids straggle off to school; precious few hours of work-time available; fuzzy-headedness not conducive to deep thought
Solution: one super-short nap; not sure it’s working, as mama is currently blogging and is not, therefore, starting to write her brand-new book, which she’s not scared of starting, really, honestly, okay, she’s pretty nervous about this (file under Things to Get Over; It Will Be Okay, Promise; You Can Do This, Just Take a Few Deep Breaths)
Problem: too much mama multitasking; items slipping through cracks; library books overdue; lists festering; brain overload; can’t read recipe for crockpot while serving porridge and trying to write notes to children’s teachers AND field question from husband about lunches without snapping irritably in reply
Solution: nothing comes to (over-stuffed) mind
Problem: there always seems to be more; it’s not predictable; no amount of list-making can answer the unknowable future
Solution: embrace improvisation; accept failure, reject defeat; welcome to the joy of being alive
I usually show photos of our house and yard looking its best. So here’s an alternate view. This is our house and yard (and shed-like garage) looking, well, less than handsome. (The flipped-over wading pool and abandoned sprinkler don’t help).
These photos were taken soon after we cut down several trees in our backyard. I’ll admit that I felt despairing as I assessed the mess. I miss those trees. Taking them down is all part of a long-term plan to bring more sunshine into certain areas of the yard–and next summer, more vegetables. But short-term, let’s just say it looks ugly. The rusty garage is exposed. (Weren’t we going to cover that garage with siding?? It was at the top of our to-do list when we bought the house eight years ago. Funny how priorities change). The house itself looks sort of forlorn and crumbling, an old, shambling, rambling kind of house, like the one I imagine for Meg’s family in the children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time. Which isn’t so bad, really; it’s just that I never noticed before.
The photo above, and the next one, were taken a few days later, when I was feeling better about the general state of our backyard affairs. In the interim, Kevin worked really hard to clean the yard. Either things really do look better, or I just think they do. Don’t tell me which it is, please.
Owning a house means participating in a perpetual work in progress. It’s very metaphorical. All the changing, shape-shifting, rearranging, and repairing. You can look at this yard and see who we are as parents, as a family, guess the ages of our children, get an understanding of our priorities, our finances, and our ability to put into action our intentions.
I like where we’re at. But we’re never done.
Did I ever tell you (confess might be the more appropriate word) that we got our children a wii for Christmas? Yes, despite my determined rhetorical stance against electronic gadgetry, screentime, and giving in to the whims of trend, after much consideration and discussion, Kevin and I decided to get a “family gaming system.” Even just typing out those last three words makes me sigh. Kevin was the more enthusiastic of the giving parents, but I did indeed agree. What swung my vote was the fact that the children were already exposed to screens in a variety of forms. They watched movies, and played games on online sites like Poptropica and TVOkids. Albus played a computer game on Saturday mornings with the others gathered around the tiny screen to watch. We had limits in place on these other uses of the screen, so we figured we could treat the wii in the same way.
And it’s been … fine. Actually, in some ways–not to endorse family gaming systems–it’s proven to be a place of bonding between siblings.
Here’s what’s happening right now: Albus is playing a game with CJ that is easy enough for CJ to play, too. They are active and bouncing and laughing and taking water breaks. I’m not saying this bonding couldn’t happen in many other ways, because it can and it does. But this is okay, too. Okay. Guess that’s as enthusiastic as I can get in my acceptance of the family gaming system.
Compromise. Even I can do it.