Timing, Chores, and Letting Go of Perfection

My need to be on time, organized, and un-rushed are frequently in direct conflict with the people with whom I share my life. I have a family who has taught me much, and one thing they’ve taught me is that my way to do things is not the only way, nor even the best way.

I’ve been asking for more help from the youngsters in our house. They are very willing to help, and do great work, and they want to be given the space and time and support to handle chores the way they choose.

This morning was a great example: Monkey was still asleep, but I asked Buster and Yessa to complete their chores so that when cousins came over to play after school the house would be in decent shape. They willingly took a break from the projects they were working on. Then, they played together for awhile, and made a game out of accomplishing their chores.

Frankly, it makes me crazy. I’m a huge fan of “do the job, get in, get out, then you get to play.” In general, it is always work before play. Buds started to change that habit in me very early on. (I swear to you, I had never, ever, ever used the snooze button until after he and I were together! That changed quickly.)

My crew sees the world as an opportunity to learn and play and work all jumbled up together. All will be accomplished, it just might be on a different timeline than I prefer.

I’m learning to be semi-okay with that.

I’m learning it because I see how quickly I can bring stress, anxiety, and frustration when I try to rush them or act like something has to be done RIGHT NOW! I’ve learned to start herding the cats toward the door much earlier than necessary if there is somewhere we really do need to be at a certain time (like church), and giving them a heads up on the plans for the next day at bedtime, or first thing in the morning each day has been very helpful.

Still, in my head I harbor the hope/dream/smugness that one day they will each come home from college and say, “My roommate doesn’t know how to cook/clean/do laundry. I’m so glad we learned to do that as kids.”

It’s good to dream.

What To Do…

A friend from college has a 15 y.o. daughter who went through cancer this last year. Amy (my friend) just wrote an eloquent list of the ways that people helped support them as they went through treatment. I’m so grateful she wrote out these wonderful ideas because I am often searching for something to do, and can never think of anything besides offering to bring dinner.

So many people stepped up to offer support and help when Dad was in his final days. I had to learn for ask for help, which wasn’t difficult with the amazing family we have, but even knowing what to ask for was sometimes difficult. This list helps me so much.

Good stuff. 15 year old daughter diagnosed last year (AML) My book club immediately organized and paid for a house-cleaning service; it was practical help; and it did truly lift my spirits to walk into a clean house every other week; and also when daughter was able to come home between rounds of treatment, it felt like a much cleaner and safer environment. In similar fashion, my college friends rallied and organized/paid for yard care service — both of these things were a mental relief for me and quite uplifting. My daughter’s aunts and uncles joined forces and gave her an iPad so that she could stay connected while in the hospital; a local organization upgraded her phone — these were huge and helped her stay connected to friends. When she felt up to it, her friends would come to the hospital and just sit with her; sometimes they brought games — sometimes they just sat and talked. Always and forever I will think of these friends as life’s true treasures.
AND MORE: sometimes my mom friends would text me and say “we just had X for dinner and have leftovers, can I bring you meet you in the hospital waiting room with some of this food in tupperware”
MY WORK COLLEAGUES came and simply sat with me in the cafeteria as I got my work done and they did theirs. It helped me stay on task and was so reassuring — just their presence.
Owner of local yoga studio handed me a pass and said “just drop in any time — take care of you.” Director of a locally owned and fantastic art house theatre handed me passes and said “get out when you can; get together with friends; and if possible, take your kids to the movies” — it was perfect.
Other friends and colleagues started an online “We Love Zoe” fund so that bills were less of a worry. Even beyond the dollars (which were oh so appreciated) when donations were made, donators left notes. I read and re-read those comments; they were so re-assuring and provided so much hope.
My sister came by the hospital every day; and it seems that every day she brought me lunch.
This is just the tip of the iceberg — I think the biggest thing was NOT to ask “hey, what can we do to help” but to just do something.
One more…sorry this list is so long…A good friend at her HS (she was a freshman) right away designed a t-shirt to sell as a show of support and as a fund-raiser. I remember on a particularly difficult day when I drove to pick up some soup that sounded to Zoe like something she could eat that as I got out of the car, one of her friends was standing in the parking lot wearing that “keep swimming forward” shirt — I’m not sure I ever felt as overwhelmed with love and gratitude as I did that very moment.

And the blog post that inspired Amy to write out the above list was from here: 7 Things To Do When Someone You Love Is Diagnosed With Cancer.

Finally, you’ve all read about my beloved friend Schmilly who died on November 12. Her husband Jason continues to write at her blog: Soon-To-Be-Survivor. The love and eloquence with which Jason writes has brought me so much. It makes me want to be a better person, just as the way Schmilly lived did.

He curses, a lot, because life is still an open raw wound, but that is overshadowed by the love. He writes the way I’d hope to if life gave me the blistering gifts he’s been given.

Throwback to a Different Snowy Day

Yesterday was Louisa’s birthday and when we checked in with each other this morning, she had dug up some Girl Scout Cookie Booth photos from Feb. 27, 2010.

Wow!

We were at Reston Town Center in front of a fancy steak place, and it was freakin’ freezing. But our cutie patooties were excited to be there together, selling cookies and playing in the snow.

Time spent planning your booth is time well spent.

Time spent planning your booth is time well spent.

Taking a break.

Taking a break.

First customers-I believe one of these gentlemen bought a case of Thin Mints.

First customers-I believe one of these gentlemen bought a case of Thin Mints.

Hot cider in hand

Hot cider in hand

Could they be any cuter?!

Could they be any cuter?!

And I believe the bear pictured above is Lindsey Vonn. Is that true, Taryn?

Girl Scouts brought so many wonderful friends into our life. I will be eternally grateful.

Happy Memories.

Snow Day

They predicted snow beginning over the weekend, but on Monday all we got was ice.

Tuesday, freezing cold, and more ice.

Slip sliding

Slip sliding

Ice sheet toss for points

Ice sheet toss for points

Kids and the neighbors got in some sledding, but it was ice sledding.

Then, this morning, Wednesday, great big globs of fluffy, puffy, snowy stuff.

The Buster headed out as quick as he could.

Even wearing a scarf!

Even wearing a scarf!

Actual snowy day

Actual snowy day

By the time he recruited Yessa to head out with him, the snow had stopped and the sun was out. But they still got in sledding with best buddy neighbor.

Pink cheeks and snowy feet

Pink cheeks and snowy feet

And some chess. (See the chessboard in the background in the picture above.)

The wonders of snow and ice.

Snow leaf Buster discovered.

Snow leaf Buster discovered.

Probably won’t stay long, but as Buster put it, “Anyone who doesn’t think snow is awesome is just wrong.”

Tidbits and Morsels

We’ve been making a concerted effort to have kids cooking and baking more.

Yessa has often made breakfast for us to share these last few days, and she and Buster settled in together to make dinner for the two of them a few days ago.

I love watching them grow and learn, and the enthusiasm they bring to many of these new opportunities is delightful.

IMAG2883

I think Yessa is saying that Buster is acting like, “…he’s punching Daddy,” in the video above. There’s lots of punching and wrestling that goes on around here. We’re like a passel of puppies on some evenings.

Monkey Joins The Band

After meeting Ms. Malinda, Monkey decided she was ready to dive back into music lessons.

Buds has a guitar that has been carried from house to house to house. After new strings and a tune-up, it’s ready for Monkey to strum for years to come.

She told Ms. Malinda of her love for Peter Mayer of “Blue Boat Home” fame, so she’ll be working on learning some of his songs, plus some Celtic tunes.

We really are in Music City now.

IMAG2867

Christmas 2014

Nearly Valentine’s Day, and I’m ready to post about Christmas.

Seems about right.

We had a lovely build up to Christmas, and a delightful Christmas Day.

We decorated Gingerbread Houses, as is our tradition, a few days before Christmas, after we returned home from Virginia.

IMAG2644

IMAG2641

IMAG2640

IMAG2639

IMAG2638

IMAG2635

Final outcome, snowy and delicious.

IMAG2648

IMAG2678

Christmas morning was relaxed and sweet.

The children had received their big gift from us, a Wii U, back in November, so there were few presents under the tree, but they were all well-received.

The Wii U unwrapping:

IMAG2554

IMAG2556

IMAG2557

Tickets, a magazine subscription, games, clothes, glass creatures, and books were all unwrapped.

IMAG2679

IMAG2665

IMAG2674

IMAG2676

IMAG2717

Magic sand, or saaaand, as the children call it, was entrancing.

IMAG2661

IMAG2689

The children and I had a hearty laugh as Buds unwrapped an old pair of his shoes that had been missing for a couple months. We found them in the basement, and decided they’d make the perfect gift for him.

IMAG2657

IMAG2668

IMAG2669

I received two favorite gifts: My mom sent four mystery novels that have been in her basement for years. That was perfect! And one of my nieces gave me a ceramic clay bowl that she had crafted, painted, and wrapped all by herself. That was my very favorite gift.

It was a good Christmas.

Now, 2014 is complete.

Home Near The Holidays

It is true. Though the people I live my life with in The Shoebox down here in Music City are truly my home, in my head I still think of Northern Virginia as “home.”

We spent a glorious week up north a few weeks ago, (now a few months ago), and it has taken me this long to write of it. A tender heart for a few days after we returned to the southern home was part of the reason. Christmas and getting busy with our regularly-scheduled life was the other.

A cold and hacking cough was carried north by The Buster and Me, though I felt worse at the beginning of the trip. Post-trip news would bring us word that we had managed to share the cold with both the families we stayed with, though both assured us it was “worth it,” and “there’s a lot going around.” Honest Jenny also referred to me as “Typhoid Mary,” so, you know, the loving openness of true friends.

We started out with Jenny, Brendan, LuLu, and A.J. in their new home. In a show of their brilliance, and our extreme good fortune, the two families that are our Virginia homesteads have the kindness to live only 4 minutes away from each other. J and B’s new house is wonderful, and Buds and I plan to someday have a sun room like they have.

We timed our trip to match with the Massadoah Christmas Party, so we got to see Chris and Mia and the Partners. Had the holiday dinner with the Juice Crew, that was also awesome.

Moved over to Kel and Paula’s during the work week.

Then, best of all worlds, the available beloveds gathered for a party on our last night. Having this group of our some of our favorite people in the whole world all in one cozy home still makes me smile as I think of it.

I’m writing this weeks afterward, so much is going left unsaid, but I wanted to have a memory jog in the years to come.

And now, it’s even weeks later…I’ve had trouble writing this post.

I miss these people. Having coffee with Tania, laughing with Kelly, watching the children disappear for hours of play together, cackling as Brendan tried out his new “vest.” It was a great week.

Loving the life I’m living, but knowing that most of my “tribe” is all together up there…that’s still really hard. We’re making a new tribe down here, but I still want to win the lottery and buy a neighborhood to move all of you into.

Until that happens, we’ll keep writing and planning and checking in. The ties are strong and stretchy.

Wii Play

Wii Play

Buddies

Buddies

Belt Earned

Belt Earned

"Settling In" for bedtime.

“Settling In” for bedtime.

So glad to be together again.

So glad to be together again.

Great dinner, great people.

Great dinner, great people.

Bonding

Bonding

Laughing

Laughing

Cooking

Cooking

Growing Up

Growing Up

Relaxing before bed

Relaxing before bed

So many slumber parties

So many slumber parties

Gathered around the kitchen table.

Gathered around the kitchen table.

B's beautiful new coat that came with the "free vest."

B’s beautiful new coat that came with the “free vest.”

The "free" vest. Bwahahaha.

The “free” vest. Bwahahaha.

Our glorious last night.

Our glorious last night.

Post written. Still working through the feelings.