Wednesday, February 27, 2019

If I Can Do It, Then...

Lately I've been managing to do a lot of things that have seemed impossible for quite some time, some of them for as long as I've been a parent. I think part of it is down to the lengthening days, and part of it is down to the lightening of some other loads, mental and otherwise. Many of them are basic home maintenance type of things, like washing the bed linen on a regular basis and wiping down the counters more frequently. These seem like small things, but they honestly were just too much for me some days. Which makes me think of this statement which I hear and read a lot. If I can do it, then anyone can do it.

Frankly, I don't know of any case in which that statement is true. Not one. There will always be someone for whom what you are doing is impossible or would take more effort than it is worth making.

When we make statements like that, we do not allow for others to have a different experience than we are having. It also sets us up to have expectations which others may or may not be able to meet. We make judgment calls about others which may or may not be correct. And often, those judgment calls are unkind.

So I will let you in on a little secret. Most people do not broadcast their troubles. A lot of the things which have taken my time, energy, and mental capacity during the past nine years in particular are not mine to share. I might allude to some things, but very few people outside our immediate family will know the extent of it. When it comes down to it, I would like to be given the benefit of the doubt. If I say I cannot do something - or if I simply don't do something which seems like it should be done - I would like people to assume that there is a good reason that I am not doing it. So I think a lot about giving others the benefit of the doubt as well. What I desire from others, I must be willing to give. I'm not immune to judging others. I do it. But I could do it less, and this is something I am working on.

Let's be gentle with each other. Let's let go of the idea that anything is easy for everybody. Let's approach each other with compassion and empathy. If we each take less time to judge and more time to be understanding, we will create a better life not just for the person we are not judging, but for ourselves as well. There is peace in allowing others to be human. I think we could all do with a little more peace.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Perfect Job

I spent part of the weekend working - for pay, and also not for pay. The for-pay part was actually way easier than the not-for-pay part. I continue to look after other people's cats as a side job. It doesn't pay loads, but it's something, and considering the fact that I accidentally for sure bought a new pair of shoes as opposed to maybe keeping the pair of shoes I'd bought on a whim, something is better than nothing. It's also a good fit for me, since I love cats and also love being alone. This job provides both! Amaaaaaazing! The only part I don't love is having to get up early for it sometimes, but I can live with that because: cats! silence! money to pay for the shoes I have most definitely bought!

The not-for-pay part of the weekend was drudgery, but drudgery that I am happy to do for the good of the collective. As a bonus, it helps me keep up marketable skills which are not related to cats and may someday offer more lucrative career opportunities. I've got no designs on trying to do anything other than sporadic part time work right now, but someday I will find myself with more time than I have now, and it would be wise to add a little money to the family retirement coffers once I am able. So I converted eleventy squajillion pages of meeting notes into two pages of meeting minutes, to be printed on a single piece of paper, front and back. As much as it was incredibly tedious and annoying, I find that I am pleased with my work. So I guess that's a win as well.

I do wonder sometimes just what kind of job I'll have someday. My current work experience is so varied that I wouldn't know where to start. So mostly I don't think about it. I take the opportunities that I have in front of me, and I do my best to do my work well. I get up early some mornings and walk through the fog to a little kitty who is lonely because her people are away for the weekend. I coordinate groups, invent craft projects, take notes using a very specific type of pen that no, you may not borrow. I work out curriculum for two very different learners. I figure out what to do with the unfamiliar veg in the veg box. I keep the budget. I have no idea what these skills will add up to in the future. But right now? I suppose they all add up to the perfect job for me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Place for Everything, But Not Every Thing in Its Place

Here we have yet another photo of our nervous little cat not exactly sitting on the table. I mean, not directly. Her tail is clearly out of bounds, but thanks to Z leaving all her drawing things out, kitty has a nice little spot to occupy without being scolded. I did tell her to get down. She know, later. When she felt like it. It's just that I feel very sorry for this cat, because she is so very nervous about everything. I imagine it's not very comfortable being her, so if she wants to sit on things which are set on the table, I am just not going to stop her. (Unless it's someone's plate.) Here I imagine that she is contemplating taking up figure drawing to calm her nerves.

Right. That's not what I came here to write about tonight. It's related though, as I am providing an example of one of the many little messes around our house. Behind the cat is our overflowing treat basket. I'm not sure why the leftover crackers from E's party are in there, but I'm just rolling with it, and with a lot of the other little messes that are everywhere at the moment. I put some things away, but I can't put everything away for all four of us, so I've ceased trying. It is also a bit onerous to try to get anyone else to put things away if I don't have a good reason for it, so I've given up.

This is not a bad thing. I've gotten things organized well enough that when there is a good reason to ask my family to put things away, it's not hard to do. Even if not everything is in its place, there is now a place for each thing to go, and it's fairly straightforward to just take things there. Things can get out of hand to the point that the quantity of things to be put away is overwhelming, but we've had a party recently enough that we're nowhere near Situation Critical. We are hosting children's vespers in a week and a half, and I am not concerned. We can get things put away quickly, everyone we know is used to the lack of attention to dusting in our house, and I am making the main dish in my crockpot, so even the food is sorted. Easy peasy.

Plus, I think there's a good argument to be made for leaving some things out. It's comfortable. I know that some people feel most at peace when everything is put away, neat as a pin, but for our family, having a few things out here and there makes it feel like we live here. Knowing that we can leave things out sometimes makes this feel like home instead of just a place to entertain the guests that only show up sporadically throughout the year. This is where we can relax. This is where we can be ourselves, not just the most polished versions of ourselves. So we've got some snacks stashed in weird places. There's a doll wearing sunglasses at the top of the stairs. I've got books tucked just under my side of the bed. There are shoes scattered throughout the whole house. This is home. So we let it be.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Emerging Into the Light

I spent the weekend and today doing everything and nothing. Resting but accomplishing things. It has been absolutely lovely. It occurred to me today that since September, I've had something major for which I was responsible on the horizon constantly. Sometimes the responsibility was shared in some way, but as the family planner and the organizer for some other things, quite a lot of responsibility for making sure things happen rests on my shoulders. So we went on vacation, we went to the US, we had a lot going on up to Christmas, we had Genna, it was E's birthday, there were some parish council meetings thrown in, a few other important church things, plus the usual demands of home education, the homeschool group I facilitate, etc. It was all overlapping.

And now, with E's big party done and the work of this past week done, there is nothing big looming on my schedules. I've even done the necessary work to file our taxes! I can relax, knowing that nothing urgent is going undone. There is time again. Time to rest, time to do things, time to leave things undone if I want. And there is also light. I can't deny that this helps as well. The sun is up around 7am now, so I'm not fighting with the dark to be out of bed by 8:30. (Yes, I do realize that it is a luxury to have my goal for getting out of bed be 8:30. It is a full on gift to this night owl, and I am aware of my good fortune in this.) I don't feel at 4pm that it is already night. I can see to get dinner started without turning on the kitchen light. It's feels amazing! One of the gifts of the shorter days is that the lighter ones feel like a miracle.

Also in the category of "feels like a miracle" are some little, silly things. I have found sneakers that I truly love which fit me well and were on sale to boot. We started getting a local veg box, and my kids are excited to see what is in it each week and even to try new things. I got my grocery vouchers from the loyalty scheme, and friends! I am going to save so much money on my groceries this month! It feels good, all of it.

So, so good.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Let the Mess Rest

In my last post, I said that I'd come back and let you know if Friday's activities included pajamas. I am sad to report that the answer is mostly no, as we did end up leaving the house today. We are checking in on our neighbor every day for a little while, as her son is out of town for work, and she needs both extra company and a bit of help sometimes. I'm sure she would've just thought it was funny if I showed up in pajamas, but I decided that the rest of the neighbors might make other judgments.

On the upside, because I was getting dressed anyway, the opportunity presented itself to wear some things I hadn't worn in awhile and see if they were still workable for me. Because my wardrobe space is small, sometimes things get pushed to the back of a compartment or get otherwise lost in between other garments. I had a pair of jeans and a top that I'd forgotten about entirely. I'm pleased to report that both still fit fine, have not developed any new moth holes or become otherwise disfigured, and will be back in rotation now that I've remembered they exist.

Besides visiting our neighbor, there were a few other things I needed to do today, but I decided that on the whole the day should be one of relaxation. The house is a mess, and so this was a bit hard for me. Every room I went into, I saw things that needed to be tidied. But I think we all know that I'm no Marie Kondo, and I made a conscious decision to let the mess rest, and let myself rest as well. All the cats got lap naps. The kids had the read aloud portion of their schoolwork attended to. And I got what was necessary done, but I got to be still a lot, too. It was what I needed today.

These last three or so weeks have been solidly busy. Last night's meeting had me out until nearly 11pm, and I had a hard time turning my brain off afterwards. It was lovely getting into bed knowing that today I would have a bit more space in my life today to do things a bit more slowly, and to ignore some things altogether. The weekend will hold errands, but also time at home, during which I can catch up on the things that got neglected today. It's all about the balance, really. I'm happy that today worked out the way that it did.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Randomness on a Wednesday

Oh, hi. Here is a picture of a cat in a large ceramic bowl. Yes, that is a blanket in the bowl, meant to lure the cat in. No, the cat is not sitting on the table, where she is not allowed to sit. I mean, isn't that obvious? She is sitting in a bowl. Yes, the bowl is on the table. But the cat is not directly on the table,'s fine?

Z got that bowl at the church social and sale on Sunday. She likes anything that's "olden-day-ish" and was thrilled when no one had bought this by the end, so it was marked down to a price she could afford. She's not sure what she's going to do with it long term, so for now it's a cat bed. We did move it off the table, though. And also I closed that drawer in the yellow cupboard properly, because I am the only one who can do it. I mean, I think I am, because no one else ever does. I am going to assume they are all incapable in order to not foster resentment. Closing the yellow cupboard drawer is officially my job.

We are in the middle of a busy week after a busy weekend, and I am going a little bit nuts. (Perhaps you noticed?) I have gotten some things done, though, and for that I feel quite pleased with myself. Aside from the confetti-filled balloons that are still lingering all over the house, all the party things have been put away. I led our Wednesday homeschool group this afternoon, so that's done. The laundry all got washed and dried. Fabulous, yes? Yes.

But there's still more to come, as always - the clean, dry laundry hasn't managed to fold itself, and I have a parish council meeting tomorrow. I'm the parish council secretary, so I must attend and takes notes that I can turn into minutes. We also need to visit our neighbor. And then it will be Friday, and I have no idea what is happening Friday. I hope it mostly involves pajamas. I'll check back in here then and let you know.

Monday, February 11, 2019

E at Seven

Today our E turned seven years old. Seven! So big and yet still pretty small. The outfit she is wearing in the photo above really encapsulates who she is at this age. All sparkle and stripes and color and still little enough to want to hold our hands. Seven means that she can walk or scooter pretty much anywhere we need to go, but she still asks to be carried when she is tired. (We mostly comply with this request. I know how quickly a child goes from being small enough to carry to being altogether too big for it.) She likes to sit on my lap after dinner, and she sometimes appears in our bed in the middle of the night. She has about five different names for J, which she uses with affection. She loves her sister fiercely and also gets upset with her using that same fierceness.

She likes to sing the songs from Hamilton, and she knows which words she is not allowed to sing at all, and which ones she can only sing at home, when it's just us. Thanks to our neighborly visits, she has discovered both James Bond and Friends, and she likes both. She can be talked into doing a reading lesson with the offer of an episode of Friends, but otherwise she feels it is a boring waste of time. She is clever and kind. She has an endless number of friends of all ages. She makes people smile regularly, even when she is being cheeky. She has an iron will that she is learning to wield to her advantage. She is an absolute delight, and we are lucky to know her.

Friday, February 8, 2019

For the Love of My Little Extrovert

I've spent the past two weeks planning and preparing for a big event tomorrow. This big event is set to be the big event of 2019. There will be no other time that we will invite so many people to our home for a celebration. This is because only one of us is an extrovert. I told E that she could invite whomever she chose to her birthday party, and she chose, well, pretty much everyone she knows. We invited thirty children to our home to watch Muppets Most Wanted. Twenty-two said yes. Many of their parents will attend with them.

I see some of you introverts are needing to take a break. Please take your time and come back when you are ready. I understand if you are never ready.

All joking aside, a party of this size in a house of the size we live in is a challenge no matter how you slice it. But a girl only turns seven once, and I was the dummy who told her she could invite as many children as she wanted. We now have a variety of cinema type snacks to suit the various dietary needs of our guests. We have a big cake which is full of butter and eggs, and we have two dozen cupcakes which are vegan. We have food for the adults to eat, which I hope the children won't pilfer, because there is not enough for everyone. (Just eat the popcorn and sweets, kids. I beg you, please.) There are juice boxes for the kids, tea and coffee for the adults, and if I've forgotten anything, that's too bad. I can't do another thing for this Muppets Most Wanted extravaganza.

The only thing I can do now is get into bed early, and wake up ready to set everything up and make it a special day for E. I may complain a bit (or a lot), but in the end, this is about celebrating her. And she is an extrovert who loves her friends. All of them. It's going to be good.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Finishing Friday's Writing on a Tuesday

I am very popular lately. Did you know this? It's true. Mostly just with my own kids, but still. It's enough popularity to last me a lifetime, I think. I am very rarely alone, and there is often someone touching me. This makes it very hard to concentrate, and if the person is hanging on my arm as if I am a climbing frame, it also makes it quite hard to type. So I have not been doing much typing that is unnecessary. I started this post with the photo of golden winter light last Friday night, when I thought I'd have an hour alone to concentrate, and then I didn't. I haven't been alone since then except to power nap for fifteen minutes on Saturday. This is my last ditch effort to write something to go with this photo. (Which is not to say that this post actually goes with this photo. But I will proceed anyway.)

I am very cognizant of the fact that my children will not be children forever, and I will not be home educating them forever either. Z already has plans to ditch me in favor of a theater program when she is fourteen. Neither of my kids will need me so much in the future, and so I am doing my best to be patient with what seem like ever-present needs, wants, and demands. Someday they will be out of the house more than they are in, and I will miss them. There is so much to love about their presence here.

But at the same time, I don't think it does anyone any favors to be dishonest about what parenthood is actually like. No one has ever said, "Have kids! They're terribly convenient!" Being a parent is to submit oneself to years of inconvenience, and at times a good deal of heartache, in the name of love. But still we do it, because the good does outweigh the bad in most cases. I suppose if we inadvertently end up raising a megalomaniac, I might change my mind about that, but I don't foresee that happening.

But what will happen is that sometimes I will make plans for myself that are impossible due to my kids' needs. I will put up with a thousand discomforts. More than that. I'll be asked hundreds of questions every day. I'll sit in front of my computer screen, and my children will ask me to turn on the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack again, and I won't be able to think, because my computer is also the source of music when the kids want to listen, and "A Cover is Not the Book" will cause my mind to seize up. I will not finish a blog post once, twice, three times. The fourth time will be the charm (this time). And it will be fine. Because I'd rather they want to be with me than want to be as far away as possible. I'd rather have them here, now, than lose the chance. I wished to be a mother, and now I am one, and I would be a fool to resent the inconveniences that come along with a wish come true.

People ask me sometimes what I will do when my children are grown and gone. They mean to ask what I will do for work, but I don't really know about that. I have some ideas, but it's far enough out that I don't feel I need to think too hard about it. I hope instead that what I will do is to be grateful for the state I find myself in then. After all these years of wishing the house were just a bit more quiet, I hope I won't resent getting exactly what I wished for.