Tag Archives: home-making

Middle of the Road

20111102-141639.jpgIt had such a promising start. For the first time in… let’s be honest, ever… I sent my daughter to school with a thermos full of delicious, homemade vegetable soup. Homemade – by me, and not just the kind where you open a packet and add a few things to feel like you’re somehow contributing to the process. I cut all these vegetables with my own two hands. Eat your heart out Betty Crocker!

I’m afraid the day didn’t live up to its potential. According to my nine-year-old, it will forever be remembered as one of the worst days in the entire history of bad days. It wasn’t the math quiz or even the science test she forgot to study for. It wasn’t post-Halloween letdown or friend drama. It was the soup.

It’s not what you are thinking, really! I know I have repeatedly decried my ability as a cook, but this is ridiculously yummy soup. I’m eating some right now.

The problem was a SLIGHTLY loose lid on the thermos. Just loose enough to let the liquid seep out and pool in her bag, soaking books, gym strip and a collection of Very Important Things that she apparently carts back and forth to school each day: a mirror, a pencil sharpener shaped as a bear, a clip from the chip bag, an old paintset, an umbrella, a special bag of kleenex, a single glove and several broken pieces of pencil lead (which she diligently collects and counts; she is now up to 2,382). At this point my little hoarder-in-training began to notice a certain stickiness down her back and legs. When she opened her backpack – soup everywhere.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, gym class that day consisted of a run around the field. Wearing her everyday shoes instead of runners, she slipped and ended up face down in the mud. So much for that new hoodie. I’m not quite sure why she chose not to call home for a change of clothes (and some more soup), but I’m proud that she tried to make the best of it.

Some kids are quite resilient to this sort of thing; it just isn’t that big a deal. But my little C is not one of those types of people. Spending an entire day sticky, muddy and smelling like vegetable soup was quite the dark night (day) of the soul for her. And it was entirely my fault… mea culpa, mea culpa.

And I know just why I did it. You see, last year I had a bit of thermos problem. Since my girls don’t really like sandwiches, we tend to use them a lot, and I’ve always been kind of paranoid about potential spillage. So I put those lids on with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, the whole point of the thermos is that it can also be opened – by tiny, little hungry hands. More often than not, they would have to get a class moniter or teacher, and occasionally even trot down to the office to find someone to open it. As if that isn’t embarassing enough, there were times NO ONE could open it. By the third time one brought home an unopened, uneaten thermos of lunch, I knew I had to change my ways.

So this year I bought new thermos’ and vowed to use a light touch. I wish I could say the soup incident was the first of its kind. This year my kids are bringing home soggy lunchbags and damp backpacks. In trying to fix the problem, I over-corrected.

Last month we spent a weekend in the mountains with my in-laws. The timeshare had a games room in the basement; all kinds of arcade games, free and unlimited. I became obsessed with “Long Haul Trucker”. I can’t blame the kids either, since I snuck down there without them one night in my pajamas.

I am bad at it – really, truly terrible. By the end of the weekend, I had made it to the first checkpoint only once. I would watch my brother-in-law calmly drive down the middle of the road and blow past checkpoint after checkpoint. When my turn came, I couldn’t seem to maintain balance. As I drifted too far on one side of the road, I would swerve to the other and before I knew it I was all over the road – veering first one way and then the next. Once again, I seem to constantly over-correct.

I do this in life too. When faced with a problem I often react by veering to the extreme. Sometimes it is a reaction to my upbringing. My parents are very easy-going and take life as it comes, but I feel the need to schedule and plan everything I possibly can (and some things I can’t). Other times I am trying to replace a bad habit with it’s polar opposite. This is why, all too often, my diet attempts end in a sugary blaze of shame, then back to a week of rice cakes and cabbage soup, and so on and so on.

Take a deep breath. Release that white-knuckled grip on the wheel (or thermos). And remember that most of the time, the best path to where I’m going is the middle of the road.

So here’s me, packing sandwiches from now on.

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Embracing the Raggedy Edges

We have a family motto that my Mom-in-law finds deeply disturbing: “It’s not great, but it’s good enough.”

It started one year as we tried to put the star on the Christmas tree. The slightly less than straight, but definitely much beloved tree our girls had picked out. Pretty soon we were saying it all the time – hanging a banner, decorating a cake, writing an email…

I didn’t set out to make mediocrity my goal. It’s hardly the stuff inspirational speeches and parenting books are written about. I do want my children to be wholehearted and hard working; to “work as if for the Lord and not for men”.

Yet I can’t bring myself to mold them into ideal Stepford children. Not only does it require enormous amounts of energy, but it sucks the joy out of life. As a recovering perfectionist I can tell you that the mindset is both exhausting and paralyzing. It’s hard to get anything done, when every little thing has to be done with excellence.

Instead I will train them to pick their battles; to save their time and energy for those things that are most important. I want them to know that they can do anything, but they can’t do everything. Hopefully I will teach them this while learning it myself.

It is hard to accept that I have limits and to live within those boundaries. So when the ghost of Martha Stewart (I know she’s not dead, but she does seem to haunt all women from time to time) peers over my shoulder with a disapproving look, I just say that motto out loud. It’s not great, but it’s good enough.

So here’s us, where life is messy and somewhat crooked… and good enough.

The Flaw

I’ve kept quiet for many years about this. Okay, not exactly, but mostly I suffer in silence. Since I started this blog I have taken the opportunity to sing my husband’s praises through it. And he really is the best guy around – a wonderful father and human being. But sometimes he really bugs me.

It’s not a marriage thing; anyone you spend a lot of time with will find it. That thing, that seemingly insignificant, small thing that irritates you like nothing else. Other people may barely even notice, but this thing will drive you batty. Perhaps I am more neurotic than most, but I have quite a few pet peeves.

Thankfully, Glen does in fact understand the correct way to load toilet paper: from the TOP people! He understands the need to put the toilet seat DOWN (which makes my first thing in the morning dash to the bathroom much more pleasant). I am forever grateful to my mother-in-law for raising a son who puts his dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty socks in the hamper and dirty self into the shower.

However… he does have one dark flaw, and it is something I “have a thing about”. Each week I collect, sort, wash, dry AND fold the laundry. I’m somewhat anal about it. Growing up, wash day was Monday, and I cannot feel quite right with the world if we have dirty clothes kicking around on Tuesday, or heaven forbid – Wednesday. The rest of my life may be descending into madness – dishes to the ceiling, crunchy floors and grimy bathrooms, but we WILL have clean clothes on Tuesday.

After busting my butt to produce this minor housekeeping miracle, I expect the neatly folded piles of clean laundry, which have been conveniently delivered to each person’s room, to be PUT AWAY. Each of my children puts their own clothes away. It was one of the first chores they learned. Even the baby was doing her part (as soon as she was able to stand on her own – I’m not a monster). It could be because their mom is the laundry Nazi, but I like to think it’s because this incredibly simple task is the least they can do to assist me with my Very Important Work (aka: laundry).

We talked about it when we were first married and he agreed. Not a big deal… totally something he could do… he was happy to help, and yet it hardly ever happened. All week I would eye that basket of clothes on the floor while he rummaged through it for what he needed. Determined not to nag, I decided to just ignore it and see how long it took before he actually put his shirts IN the drawer. Five laundry baskets precariously stacked with a smattering of clean clothes in the bottom of each one and STILL he would rather hunt through the stacks than empty the things.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable, peace-loving human being, but this could very well have pushed me over the edge. He really wasn’t trying to be a jerk or disrespect me in any way. He just doesn’t see it. In fact, he floated the idea of doing away with drawers entirely, just living out of the baskets.

Eventually I realized that this little, but extremely crucial issue could cause our relationship serious stress. Relationships can be destroyed by the silliest things. Friends, siblings, co-workers, room-mates… pretty much anyone who is up in your face long enough for you to want to punch them in theirs. Of course, in the end it’s not about how to fold the towels or who is a better driver, but it can start there. The spark that starts the fire doesn’t need to be a big one. I watched a bitter divorce unfold with the major battle being who should clean out the garage.

I know wives all over the world have been putting clothes away for centuries without complaint, but somehow I got it in my head that I shouldn’t have to. And I don’t, I really don’t. But I decided that this would be my act of sacrificial love. It may not seem that romantic, but it is a marriage builder in our home.

For more than a decade I have been putting shirts, pants, socks and boxers away while repeating the mantra “an act of love, an act of love, an act of love.” To be honest, I don’t think he’s even noticed. Every once in a while that irritation sneaks up on me again, but it’s good for me. Glen says it all the time – love isn’t just a feeling, it is an act of the will. And in our house, that means drawers full of clean laundry.

So here’s me, grateful that he loves me by overlooking the garbage I leave in his car, clipping my toenails in front of the t.v. and even peanut butter breath.

The “Honey Do” List

I like lists. Scratch that, I LOVE lists! When the world is spinning out of control and I’m feeling overwhelmed, a list makes everything better. Seriously, it’s better than Prozac.

I can’t think of a situation that can’t be improved with a list. I dare you – try to stump me!

Work piling up and you don’t know where to start? Make a list. Kids acting like orangutans? Make a list of goals and how to get there (even better when they are in on the discussion, something I like to facilitate with liberal amounts of ice cream). Worries keeping you up at all hours? Make a list of things to think about tomorrow.

If you are wondering what brought about this list making infomercial, it is this:

The "Honey Do" List

That’s my summer chore list… with not one single thing marked off. It’s a new low for me. Now I could give you plenty of valid excuses… ahem… REASONS why this is the case, but the truth is they don’t make me feel any less discouraged and depressed about it.

So, I’ve decided to resurrect an old habit. It’s something my sweetheart has enjoyed mocking me for over the years. I’m going to go back to that list and add things I’ve already done – then cross them off with great relish.

  • Spend time with my kids – CHECK!
  • Cuddle my new nephew and niece/god-daughter – CHECK!
  • Figure out how to Skype my sister – CHECK!
  • Go to Bard on the Beach – CHECK!
  • Buy a cowboy hat the Calgary Stampede – CHECK!
  • Sit on the beach with my feet in the sand and my nose in a book (and one eye on the kids) – CHECK!

It seems to me that there’s a whole lot about celebrating in the bible – whole chapters commanding festivals and holidays and dozens of poems with lists (YES, that’s right lists) of God’s blessings. Maybe I’ll add that to my list:

  • Worshiping God by enjoying the life I’ve been given!

So here’s me – celebrating the life I live, instead of obsessing about everything still left to do.

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