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THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

This morning, I woke up with a headache. Even before my head left my pillow, my eyes were having a harder than usual time.

It was the opening they couldn’t do.

Now, as I sit wide-crosslegged on my carpet, typing away at the coffee table in my living room, I think my early morning experience is kind of funny. My eyes were having a harder than usual time.

Lately, it’s everything else that has been having a hard time. I have felt like I can’t do anything. I can’t process things correctly. I can’t think or organize (well, the non-organized part is pretty usual for me). I can’t respond. I can’t focus.

Why? Maybe because of this hectic world I’ve created. Too much on the plate. Not enough calm. Not enough space. Not enough rest.

Because my life is like yours. There are too many crumbs on the floor. Too many dirty clothes. Too many questions. Too many mouths and not enough spoons. Too many dishes and not enough hands. Well, sometimes there are too many hands too.

Like tonight.

But before we get into that story, I’m going to back up.

I woke feeling terrible. I was forced to step back. To put on The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space and lie down on the couch so I could close my sore eyes. To make whatever food was easiest. To back away from the kitchen as soon as possible so I could stop using my legs.

Right before lunch, my 4 year-old (who never stops jumping and has tantrums like The Hulk) said he wanted to go to bed. He said that both his stomach and the back of his neck hurt. These were my exact symptoms.

“Okay,” I said. “Would you like some pizza first?” Today’s lunch was homemade frozen pizza, and Super Healthy Kids jello. And cucumbers. All foods that this boy loves.

“No. I just want to lie down,” he sagged down the hall to his bed, hugging Red Monkey all the way.

After naptime, I was feeling better but this boy had a fever. So we snuggled and played cards.

What took my attention was the fact that he did everything right while he was sick. He didn’t get impulsive and flip over our game of war. When he went to the bathroom, he didn’t pee on the floor, and as soon as he came out of the bathroom he told me that he washed his hands and flushed the toilet. He didn’t once raise his voice. Not all afternoon or evening.

So, he does know what he needs to do. He just chooses not to do it.

Kind of like me. I know that I need to rest. I need to stop focusing on what my life should look like. I need to use more paper plates and I need to buy more packaged foods. I need to let go of the desire for homemade, at least in a few areas.

After dinner, we were all feeling somewhat better. Our bellies were full of eggs and bacon and sautéed kale and fruits. (Well, only mine was full of sauteed kale. Kale goes with everything. No? 🙂 )

I decided to step in the kitchen and empty the sink so we would have some clean dishes. My feverish boy brought a chair and helped as best he could. Ah! How does a 4 year-old help wash dishes? Some of you probably know the answer, but in that moment I was shaking with uncertainty.

But his chair was already there and his voice was so sweet.

“Can I help you, mom?”

I have been thinking lately that maybe it’s not the daily chores, but how I do them. I often rush through chores with speed, trying to get them done before one son slaps another. Before voices are raised. Before toys are thrown. I rush through tasks because I don’t have enough time to slow down.

But there is no lack of time. There is a myriad of time. And rest requires that revelation.

As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, it would benefit my whole family if I slowed the chores down. These are teaching moments. Learning to make a dish clean is learning to love. Caring for a home means caring for the family, for the people. Though tasks are numerically abundant, they can hold another kind of abundance, too.

This is the kind of abundance that makes our hearts flow at night’s end, and uncovers joy within the chore of a.m. eye-opening.

What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

What Is An (Introvert) Mom To Do?

Have you heard of Susan Cain? She wrote a book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read it yet, but I did watch her TED Talk, where she speaks about the book. I realize that’s not the same, but I have a long list of books to read and it only keeps growing. For now, the TED Talk will have to do.

Susan Cain provides a great definition for introversion. She says, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. …introverts [often] feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” 

I’ve never questioned the fact that I am an introvert. But I have always hated that word, and I still don’t like using it. It just has this connotation, you know?

For me, the word creates an image of someone who shies away because of a desire to be inside and alone. It’s a recluse who smells bad and doesn’t know how to form proper sentences. But that’s not accurate. Connotations aren’t whole pictures. (Honestly, though, sometimes I am that weird introvert who just wants everyone to go away. Sometimes I even smell bad and have a hard time forming proper sentences. Okay. Whew. Now you know.)

I am an introvert, but I love people, too (most of the time). I’m even okay in big crowds. And I love going to parties.

But do I actually love going to parties?

Sure, going to parties makes me feel popular, liked, included. But do you know what I usually do at big parties? I sit on a couch. I cling tightly to the people I arrived with. I don’t talk much. Instead, I watch. When I was young, I just thought everyone was supposed to love big crowds. Now, thankfully, I know that I swing more toward small group settings. I can unapologetically say that I really only want to be around a few people at a time, people I can chat with, people I can learn from, people I can discuss deep meaningful things with like the dichotomy of Pinterest: we love it but it also makes us feel like we have a big fat L across our foreheads. That is a deep truth.

Really, I love having people around. I just can’t be around people all the time.

But I’m a stay at home mom, so I have to be around people all the time.

WHAT IS AN

I think all of us, introvert or not, know that since small children require so much attention, there has to be some kind of relief. Most of us don’t have the innate ability to just take care of other people and never do a thing for ourselves.

I know that mothering experts say we need to take time to do things that we love, things that refresh us. We need to step away from the home every once in a while. I also can’t shake something that I heard an elderly lady say to me recently. “When I was young,” she said, “there was no such thing as ‘my time’.” So how did mothers survive back then? I wish I had asked her.

For now, I know that the television is always there for me when I need to shower or read a few pages of great literature (other people sneak off to do that, too, right?) I know that when I feel like my kitchen exploded with cookie dough and our two-nights-ago dinner, I can clean it with the help of “15 minute sibling time” and my type B personality.

Some days I feel crazy. I feel like I shouldn’t have had kids. I feel like I need my kids to go to day care somewhere so I can just sit at home in all my introvert-ness and read and write by candlelight while Beethoven plays softly over the Youtube.

But I have kids. They were my choice and I love them. They were given to me. I was given to them. I am their mother.

One thing I have learned is that taking care of kids, doing housework, making lunches and even grocery shopping can be restful acts.

That sounds crazy, right? But hear me out. Rest is not something we can create. Even candles and Beethoven, a massage, a hot bubble bath, wouldn’t relax me unless I allowed myself rest.

So, while I do dishes, while I sweep the floor, while I pick up dirty socks and two-inch army men, I remind myself to breathe as if I’m practicing Yoga with Adriene.  Our feeling of craziness is so often our mind’s doing.

I challenge you to take it over. Next time you feel stressed out, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Say the words, “I need help right now.” I promise that if you actually want it, you’ll get it. It might not look like you think it will, but you will get rest if you want it and are willing to look for it.

When you feel crushed and useless from social stimulation, take a rest. Take it with your kids if you have to. Just stop creating busyness. Sit down. No matter what has spilled, no matter who is fussing, if you are feeling crazy, just stop for a second. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t turn to the computer. Those things do not provide rest.

Mom, when you can’t find a quiet, low-key environment, rest in the knowledge that whatever chaos is happening will not last forever.

You can, right now, invite your kids to lie down in your bed with the lights off. And don’t mind if they tickle each other or giggle through the whole thing. Sit down in the middle of the living room floor and let your kids find a seat in your lap.

Then, while you are washing dishes and the kids are acting like the world is ending, the soap on your sponge can feel like the bubble bath you think you need.

You’re welcome 🙂

 

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

I know that how-to blogs are really popular. We love to be told what to do. We especially love instruction when we are moms and homemakers, when we are women who home school and cook every day. We want to know the best way to do laundry and how to clean our oven in 30 seconds. We want to know how to keep our children from screaming and how to pamper ourselves while also being the best mom ever.

We want to have everything: the pretty red washing machine and the energy-saving clothes line out back, where it never rains and bugs don’t crawl. We want to know how to make the best chocolate chip cookies, but also how to keep our bellies from rolling over our jeans.

So when my husband gave me a website for Mother’s Day this year, I was excited. Then I was really nervous. I thought, I can’t have a blog. I don’t know how to do anything, and as for the things I do know, there is no constant.

It’s true. I don’t separate my laundry. Instead, I mostly just shove pieces of dirty cloth into the machine until it’s full. Then I pour in a cap full of soap, and push the ON button. I only clean our oven when it starts smoking up the kitchen. My children aggravate each other and they aggravate me, and though we share a lot of amazing moments, they are almost always unplanned, a result of something I didn’t do and can’t recreate. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t blow dry my hair. My idea of getting pampered is doing anything alone, and that’s not a plea for martyrdom. It’s really the truth. All I need in order to feel refreshed is a good few minutes with myself, where everything is quiet and I can process the world that is spinning and leaping and shouting around me. Every cookie I bake is different from the ones before it because I love to try new things, even if they aren’t as good as the last ones, and though I try to exercise a few times a week, I often end up just doing some combination of push ups/squats/jumping jacks/high knees while my children try to crawl under my legs exclaiming, “Mom’s a tunnel!”

The bottom line is that I’m only sometimes a tunnel. Other times, I look more like a crazy person, my double jointed elbows flailing around in the air, seemingly free from my shoulders, and sometimes my children get kicked in the head. I don’t have the answers.

Instead of trying to figure out how I could maintain a blog, I sat around for days wondering about it. Well, I have three children, so actually I barely sat at all, but that sentence is metaphorical. You know I love metaphors, right? I have been waiting for an idea, for a spark of lightening, for a muse, for a vision, for a mission statement of some kind that speaks of my life, and explains what I can offer.

Here it is: This is not a how-to blog. You will not find tutorials, and you will not find advice.

You want to know why not, right? Of course you do. If I’m not going to tell you how to do things, you at least want me to tell you why I’m not going to write tutorials.

Well, it’s not them, it’s me. And that’s the actual truth. It’s because I am not a directional person. I mean this in all senses: I get lost all the time, even when I have been to a place before, and though I admit that it would be nice to always be on the right road (and thus avoid almost all the marital arguments that ensue around my home), creativity begs for a journey. Since I know that I am a creative person, I have to be okay with the journey, and more than that, I have to enjoy the journey. I have to love the journey. I have to find joy and contentment while I am lost among orange cones and detour signs. Though there are a lot of people out there who hate being the passenger in my minivan, I simply cannot allow myself to always be focused on the quickest way to get from my home to whichever grocery store I decide to shop at that day.

My hope is that my journey speaks to you, and encourages you. My hope is that you find joy and rest and mercy as I reveal pieces of my journey here. You have to know that my journey, though it may sound beautiful and humorous, is a mess just like yours. Any beauty or humor found here is only a result of time. And time, though not all-powerful, does often allow healing and provide perspective for circumstances which may have once been really difficult.

Now, I invite you to join me, here, in this place, where the laundry is clean but not best, and where the cookies surprise and the bread is fresh, where I look for rest but only find it when I stop and realize that I can’t create it. Rest, it seems, is always here, if we invite it.