Monday, September 29, 2014

Eleven Days of Blogging Silence

It's rare for me to let any length of time slip by without writing, but several extenuating circumstances have disrupted my blogging flow lately. 

By extenuating circumstances, I mean that I've been violently sucked into a vortex of grading for the classes I'm teaching, shuffling multiple children to multiple soccer practices, navigating a challenging situation, packing and unpacking our family's belongings for back-to-back weekends away from home, and replacing our old computer after it faltered, froze, and then ultimately crashed in the most frustrating fashion last week.

In short, my work-life balance descended from the already tenuous level of "kinda, sorta but not really balanced" to the level of "look out, this girl is going down."

So yesterday, I did just that.  I took a lesson from my computer and crashed.  There was nothing profound about it -- just a late afternoon nap on top of an unmade bed during which my mind, for the first time in weeks, stopped racing.

And, not surprisingly, things feel better now. 

There's no shame in crashing.  We all periodically need rebooting.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

When Your Kids Remind You of Chickens

Time stands still for a moment as I'm in the kitchen wearing oven mitts and pulling dinner out of a 350 degree oven.

Against the consistent beeping of the oven's timer, two children are yelling.  The third child is cartwheeling in the narrow space between the kitchen table and the island where I'm trying to set down my hot dish, even though she's been encouraged (repeatedly) to curb her inordinate desire to use the cartwheel as her primary method of locomotion throughout our house.

Each child is louder than the next (which seems to be a technical impossibility except that it's true), and each is simultaneously needy, resulting in a ungodly spiral of noise and demands for my immediate attention and response. 

They repeat themselves with increasing volume as if I can't hear, as if I don't notice the small person standing directly in front of me who's yelling about the coloring page that was torn crookedly from the coloring book.  And the other small person who's yelling that it was her coloring book in the first place.  And the slightly larger person who kicks the kitchen table, mid-cartwheel, and crumples to the ground in a hysteric wail.

I set my dish down.  I regard the children warily and notice a certain crazed beadiness of their eyes.  Time stands still, and in that frozen moment I'm utterly convinced that these children would be entirely capable of systematically pecking me to death like aggressive chickens.  One deliberate peck at a time.

If at any point today you feared that your children just might be feral (despite having spent more than enough time with them during their early childhoods to know for certain that they weren't raised in the wild), recognize that you're not alone.  I've visited that dark place more than once.  This afternoon, in fact.

Considering that I've reached the day's end with enough coherence to still be writing, let me encourage you with this:

The chickens won't win.  I tucked mine into bed, kissed their little heads, and watched their beady eyes close.  Tomorrow is another day.  (And, hopefully, a peck-free one.)
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Photo compliments of Ami Bunker from Bunkers Down, a special blogging partner in crime.  Those are her actual chickens.  To my best knowledge, they would never systematically peck anyone to death, but I'd still keep my eye on the one on the right.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Socks Don't Have to Match


My nine-year-old daughter wears mismatched socks by choice.  Each morning she reaches into her sock drawer, finds two in whatever colors and patterns she fancies at the moment, and puts them on her feet. 

She's done this for two years.  Clearly, she's uncaged, a free-thinker in the narrow world of traditionally acceptable foot fashion.

Incidentally, each time I've folded the laundry these past two years, without even thinking I've still sorted her socks, found the separated mates, and joined them in harmonious reunion with one swift inverted tuck.  (You know, so those matched socks would be easy to pull apart the next time she's searching for two different ones to wear.)

One day this summer my daughter and I folded laundry side by side.  She watched me sift through the clothes, sorting and pairing out of dutiful habit, and said, "You know that my socks don't need to be matched like that, Mom."

Such an obvious sentence, given her daily practice.  But in my world -- a world in which I thrive on structure and predictability, a world in which I like to straighten things (whether books on a shelf, a problem at work, or a relationship gone askew) -- socks are matched when they come out of the dryer.
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Continue reading at The Deliberate Mom where I'm delighted to be guest posting today!  Jennifer has become a dear blogging friend of mine, and you can finish reading this post on her site by clicking HERE.


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Benefit of Creating Beauty for Beauty's Sake

While driving to work on Friday morning, I saw a sign announcing a garage sale.  A small part of me mourned because I realized that the arrival of fall (which otherwise is cozy and delicious and aesthetically glorious) inevitably means that the garage sale season is swiftly coming to a close.

This is a downer.  You see, garage sales lure me.  I imagine what unlikely treasures I might find -- those unloved and unwanted cast-offs that are waiting to be transformed by someone who sees their potential.

By the time I arrived at my parking garage minutes later, I already had decided that I'd find a pocket of time during the weekend to start one final project I had hoped to complete during the summer: the refurbishing of an old wooden Lazy Susan. 

Earlier this afternoon when my daughters were occupied, I gathered my materials and settled down to work, enjoying the quiet and the progress that slowly materialized, section by section, as I methodically stenciled. 


There's something rejuvenating (therapeutic, even) about working with my hands.  I know this about myself, and the realization forced me to confront an unspoken expectation that I had foisted upon my own shoulders: namely, that it was time to stop these artistic endeavors, this mere play, because my professional work has geared up with the start of the semester.

Foolishness.  If anything, now is the time when I most need to devote a few moments for this purpose!

I think of my friends who have creative pastimes: a musician, photographers, a baker, an actress who performs in local theatre, a quilter who steals hours to sew after her young children go to bed, a paper crafter who makes intricate handmade cards, a home chef.  I think of my fellow bloggers who string words together like pearls, setting forth their thoughts in beautiful arrangements.

Granted, from purely a pragmatic view, this world doesn't need any more musicians, or photographs, or cupcakes, or plays, or quilts, or cards, or salsa recipes.  (It certainly doesn't need another blog post.)  These areas are saturated.

But we need these things.  We need the opportunity to put our hands to a task, to create, and to elicit beauty through as many senses as possible.  Because something changes in our environment and in our hearts when we're in the presence of a beautiful thing.

Even my kitchen -- that kitchen with a full dishwasher, crayons scattered across the table, and a floor so sticky that I'm considering sandblasting it -- was transformed this afternoon when my husband snipped a few of the final summer rose blooms and displayed them on our countertop.


Those roses?  They bloom for me and for my daughters.  They exist for our pleasure, much like when I witness a particularly striking sunset and imagine God, the ultimate creative force behind beauty, painting it for the simple reason that He knew I'd enjoy it.

When we take the time to create something -- whether a song, a project, a craft, a meal, or a piece of writing -- its significance doesn't lie in the size of the audience who encounters it, as if merit were solely determined by scope. 

No, the significance lies in the act of creating.  We create because it's good for our souls, because we're wired to do so.  We create because it's an offering to others.

It's enough to create beautiful things merely for the sake of beauty.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Falling Into Fall

Although we didn't have an exceptionally hot summer, the humidity spiked during our first two weeks back to school.  Within minutes of venturing outside, I could feel my hair frizz as the air enveloped me, thick and muggy.

Then we reached this week, our third week of the school routine, and something in the atmosphere changed.  As we acclimated to our new schedules, the weather seemed to acclimate to its new season.  The humidity broke, ushering in the most comfortable afternoons.  Mornings and evenings now carry a hint of chill.

When the girls return home from school, we visit our garden (zucchinis and jalapenos and raspberries just keep coming!) and we walk through the yard.  Our fall landscaping is different than other times of the year.  Late summer's growth explodes, wild and large, to fill open spaces with deeper colors.

 

As we walk, we pause to inspect milkweed and look for caterpillars, keeping track of their location so we can find any future chrysalises.


It's during these moments when I remember to delight in the fact that we're falling into fall.  Our schedules may be gearing up with workloads and activities, but there's still opportunity to slow down -- to regard the gardens, to appreciate the harvest, to be thankful for the cool September breeze.

No, I don't mind falling into fall at all.

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