Friday, February 27, 2015

Go Clean Your Bathroom

"Ugh.  Entropy.  I hate it."

I was standing in the bathroom, talking to The Mr., and staring at the sink, which, but a few short days ago had been clean and white and sparkling, and now was covered in dust, smears of toothpaste, and stray hair.  The tube of Crest was open on the counter, someone had set down a comb and several rubber bands willy-nilly on one side, and the hand soap was dispenser was out of soap.  Again.  A crumpled towel lay on the floor, the baby's bath tub obstructed the path from the door to the toilet, and the trashcan threatened to over flow.  It was a mess.

Entropy happens, right?  No matter what we do or how hard we work, things fall apart.  We clean and straighten and pick up and put away again and again and again, then turn our backs, and suddenly, cabinets have erupted, boxes have spilled over, drawers have spit up, and dirt and detritus is everywhere. The Second Law of Thermodynamics strikes again!  Often around here, it's not a matter of days, but hours between when something is clean and something is a wreck.  In the case of the kids' rooms, it might even be minutes.  Sometimes, it can start to get a girl down.  

I have a magnet on my fridge that matches the picture at the top of this post and proclaims: "A Clean House is a Sign of a Wasted Life."  And mostly, I believe it.  I'm glad that those of us who work in our homes full time have finally been freed from marriage to our houses (no longer are we called "house wives") and to an ideal of "house beautiful" which can only be maintained at the cost of our relationships and sanity.  I'm glad, mostly, to be a "stay-at-home mom" instead, and glad to be allowed by my society to focus my energies on my relationship with my kids and being a good mom, rather than on keeping a spotless house.

It's true, though, that even though I've come to terms with the fact that, no matter how hard I try, the best I can do is try to keep disorder in my house at bay, and even though I know that the cleanliness of my house is no real measure of my worth as a person, I do believe that real beauty, joy, and shalom can be found through just simply cleaning up our home.  We've discovered of our family that things go more smoothly when the house is in order -- chaos there breeds chaos in our relationships too.  So, I've been making a more concerted effort lately to battle the brokenness on the home front. Our last few weeks have been full of entropy, rearing its ugly head.  We've come up against a broken well pump, a broken car, a broken favorite mug, broken good intentions, and a broken health insurance policy, just to name a few. And that's only our petty, insignificant experiences with entropy.  If I start thinking about things falling apart in national politics or international conflict, the brokenness of modern-day slavery, or viral epidemics, I can really start to feel powerless and overwhelmed.  There's really very little I can do to fix any of these things, or to fix them easily or well, but cleaning the bathroom, making my bed, vacuuming the living room, these are all things I can do, and while they're all small, they're not insignificant.

Plus, there's this:  After I made the comment to The Mr. about hating entropy, he responded: "yeah, I get it. But think, there are some people who have two, even three bathrooms to clean, and you only have one!  Lucky you!"

Lucky me indeed!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cardinal Virtues

Perched among these garden graves
bereft of any headstone set to say
what they were or what they will become
in winter's dead and frozen waste
this unexpected grace
a streak of scarlet flies and lands
a spark upon this barren branch
that set this burning bush aflame
he wings and sings of time redeemed
and calls to mind the flaming leaves
that lit from spring, summer's green
and fell and lie beneath this snowy shroud.
Death lies close underground
cold and hard and still
but so does the seed.

[Photo Credit: The Mr.]

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Best Valentine's Day Yet

At the beginning, we made a big deal about not making a big deal about it.  It was just a day, a Hallmark-manufactured holiday, an excuse for sentimentality and maudlin emotions, a reason for people to spend money on things that didn't matter (extra empty calories and blooms that live a few days and then die).  "We don't 'do' Valentine's Day."  Except we did (remember that six-pack of Squirt and that dainty bouquet?).  And now, we still do, only now doing Valentine's Day means picking up the car from the shop (car finally fixed after busting a belt on Monday!), dealing with the plumber who came to fix our well pump (pump only temporarily fixed and we're living on tenterhooks, waiting to see if we're going to loose all our water again. Do you know how much snow it takes to flush a toilet?  A lot of snow.), baking the best chocolate cupcakes I think I've ever had, making dinner ("I love you" with a side of french fries), readying the church for a feast tomorrow, bathing kids, feeding kids, reading to kids, watching a Mr. Bean movie with the kids.  And  Baby, it's cold outside -- the snow keeps coming and the mercury is falling and isn't going to get much higher than nothing tomorrow -- but it's a jungle in here, and this jungle keeps us all warm.

Plenty of that to go around.

Yes, this is first grade.  Gotta love it.

Did I mention the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had?  This is how good they were:  At one point, I walked into the dining room, and the Mr. looked at me and said, "Do you realize that you are holding three sticks of butter?  Are you using all of those?"  And the answer was yes.  Beauty, joy, shalom, chocolate.  

Enjoy one of the best Jason Harrod tunes ever:

Friday, February 6, 2015

I've Been Baptized

Last week,we had a small moment in our church service to remember our baptisms.  The font was filled with water and people came forward to dip their fingers in, to feel the dripping wet, to hear words: "You have been baptized.  You are a child of God."  The point was identity -- this is who we are -- the baptized ones, the claimed, the held close, the united with Christ, the crucified with him, the raised to new life.  These words have stayed with me all week, through the snowy gloom and the freezing bright blue, as I walked into an intimidating board meeting and as I contemplated my messy house, the split second after I responded to a child in anger and moment that I apologized, as I celebrated a six-month birthday and gave thanks for the invention of antibiotics.  I have been baptized.  As a roundhouse kick at the darkness, it works pretty well.  So, take that.

We finally got our big snow this week.  Honestly, I prefer a few feet to a few inches.  At least it gives us all something to do:

And there was sun this week too, enough so that this girl thought she was reading at the beach one afternoon:

Obligatory cute baby picture, just because:

Can you guess that we read aloud a lot around here?  There are very few other primers on beauty and joy and shalom that are quite as effective or captivating as a well-told story, and we love sharing them together.  Right now, The Mr. reads in the evenings, and he is on our second book in the Redwall series, and yes, he does all the voices.  Of course.

And this literally happened:  Just tonight, as she was midway through a bite of chocolate pudding cake, Ana looked up at me and asked, "Mom, is there any more broccoli?" "Why yes," I replied. "Would you like some?  Instead of your cake?" "Yes please!" she replied, pushing her dessert away and reaching for the broccoli pan. Gotta love that girl.

Finally, last week Sunday I croaked my way through this song as a special offering (my head cold having turned into an honest-to-goodness sinus infection).  I probably didn't have any business trying to sing, but just couldn't help myself. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one singing.  Unfortunately, I accidentally left my melodica at home, or it would have been even cooler. It made a good soundtrack for the week:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Add Beauty. Bring Joy. Cultivate Shalom.

Ok, so maybe that last post was a little bit disingenuous.  Around here, January has not been all smiling babies and adorable kids.  January, actually, has been a bit of a sucker punch in the gut.  We spent the first week of the New Year by all of us (except, miraculously the Baby) dealing with something that looked like the flu, and felt like the flu, and sounded like the flu, but was, apparently, not "The Flu".  There were multiple meals at which The Mr. and I were the only ones at the table because the kids were languishing in their rooms and eating crackers and drinking copious amounts of orange juice.  Now, to finish out the month, the Baby and I are hacking our way through The Great Virus Stand-Off of 2015, The Sequel: Really Awful Head Colds.  In between feeling sick, we've had weeks of ridiculous cold, punctuated by pathetic little snow showers that can't even muster up the strength to be a real honest to goodness blizzard.

Needless to say, New Year's Resolutions, such as they were, haven't been a huge priority for me.  It wasn't like I sat down and wrote out a long list anyway, but I'm a resolution-making kind of girl.  I've always got a new plan for how Things Will Be Better, to the point that my kids now know to sigh and look wary and weary whenever I announce at dinner "Hey, I've got an idea...".  This year, I didn't have anything specific I was aiming for, other than a general desire to start really chipping away at simplifying and organizing our home, both the stuff and the things we do in it.  So I checked out a book from the library (of course I did).  It was Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  I've kind of followed Tsh's blog in the past and the book was on my radar but I'd never actually read it.  I wouldn't say that I learned anything earth-shattering from reading it, but the one thing that I did take away, and
I think the most important point of the whole book, was the priority of coming up with a Family Purpose Statement, before you get too excited about cleaning out your sock drawer or organizing the basement.  The idea is that before you can get serious about simplifying your life, you need to know what you're aiming for; you need a rubric to help you make all those tough decisions about what's going to stay and what's going to go.  I really like this.  Rather than starting with the goal to "get rid of stuff," you start with the goal of living into your purpose, being the family that God has created you to be.  I'm happy to say that one of the only significant things that January has yielded for us so far is (da da daaaa) our Family Purpose Statement.  It goes like this:

Our purpose is to add beauty, bring joy, and cultivate shalom, in our work and words, with welcome and wonder.  

Now, you know The Mr. and Me, and you know that we're word people, so you can bet that every single one of those verbs and nouns is significant.  We're adding beauty (because there's already so much there, you see?), bringing  joy (because we've got it, down in our hearts to stay) and cultivating shalom (because it takes a lot of work to give peace a chance to grow).  It's only an added and unintended bonus that the letters of those three verbs spell out "A, B, C".  Serendipity!  I won't go through and parse the rest of the thing in agonizing detail -- you get the point.  We're pleased with the result, and have already seen it bear a tiny bit of fruit in our home. I got the idea from reading this blog by another busy homeschooling mama that I could use my blog to chronicle our attempts to live into this purpose.  (I also had my attention called to the wonderfully exact phrase "add beauty" by the author, Gina Smith, and she gave credit for it to singer/songwriter Sara Groves. So.  Just sharin' the love.)  Maybe, actually, that's what this blog has always been about.  Maybe I'm just going to try to be more intention about it.  Maybe it's "What's Making Me Happy This Week -- Level 2".  We'll see.

For now, here's where I'll start.

Adding Beauty:

I should never, ever, go through another Advent/Christmas/Epiphany without an amaryllis bulb.  It hasn't even bloomed yet and already we're agog by its audacious green and scarlet beauty against the snowy white weather outside.  Good Things are coming!

Bringing Joy:

How many of us can say that we bring joy just by showing up?  She does.  And that little sprig of curl on top of her head? The one we call a "Tintin poof"?  Made of joy.

Cultivating Shalom:

I started reading Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson during our after lunch read aloud times.  It's thoroughly delightful (and, as it happens, a round about argument in favor of homeschooling, done correctly!).  So when the kids separated to do their own reading and this kid (who hasn't been terribly cooperative when it comes to reading lately) wanted to "find out what happened next," I let him.  Twist my arm, why don't you?

You know what I've noticed?  There are a lot of kids who can't play any more.  Sure, they can zip their way through a Minecraft landscape, or fling imaginary birds at things.  They can even toss a football in the yard or run batting practice.  But ask them to use their imaginations and actually play with stuff, and they're stumped.  I am so very thankful that my kids can still play, long, and real and hard.  This is good work they're doing, people.  And I'm grateful I get to let them do it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Just a glimpse of life around here lately... 

One of these days she's going to figure out what all that jaw flapping is about and then, watch out!

Wearing my mom's winter hat.  I'm so cool!

They love me!  They really love me!

Quick!  Kids!  On the couch for a Christmas Eve picture!  NOW!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pied Beauty

Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manly Hopkins
GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:         
 Praise him.