Thursday, November 21, 2013
Of all the weeks, I thought.
Of all the weeks.
We had been flying through our fall, engines at full throttle, happy but stressed, busy but tired, focused but frenetic.
Until a few days ago.
Until my precious running partner/sister neighbor got to experience 5 of 8 dousing down her hallway in projective stomach bug. He came staggering home to tell me he thought he was sick, I called the precious running partner/sister neighbor to offer to come down and mop up. "I took care of it," she said. "No worries." (I'm keeping her. You can't have her.)
I wanted to believe that 5 of 8 would be the only one. I really did. And for a bit, his tummy distress seemed to be his own personal issue, certainly not something to be shared more broadly.
I'm a hopeless optimist, I am.
Sunday, at church, in the middle of praise and worship, I got a text from 4 of 8. "So. I threw up."
Let the games begin.
By that night, more of us were going down and going down fast. Myself included.
This week was chock full of all kinds of important stuff. I'm in the middle of recording another audio book, a fantastic non-fiction piece with a looming deadline. I was also scheduled to speak twice. 1, 2 and 3 of 8 all had major work and exams to complete at their college classes. 6 of 8 is in the middle of finishing choreography for this winter's upcoming competitions. Work and classes for the big kids, school and activities for the youngers, Thanksgiving prep and pre-Christmas shopping. And the triple birthdays. Three of us have birthdays this week, three days in a row.
Regardless of calendars and commitments and classes...
It was time for a Vomit Vacation.
One which most of us were invited to go on.
I hate Vomit Vacation.
But there we've been, in the middle of a week that was scheduled and timed to the nth degree. Vomit Vacation was called.
And you know what?
As unpleasant as the vehicle has been, this enforced time out has had its perks. I had to be still and quiet. And rest. The kids had to be still and quiet. And rest. The healthy members of the household throttled back their schedules and pitched in, running to the store, fetching crackers and Sprite, offering comfort, tenderness. We've celebrated birthdays over bowls of soup. For just a handful of days, we've let go of the taut leash of the schedule and let it run. We'll catch it later. We've taken a breath, albeit a queasy one.
And all it took was a little cookie-tossing.
Doesn't take much to get my attention. Ahem.
I'm digging us out now. We still have one or two who are taking longer to mend. There is all the Post Event Laundry to be dealt with. And Mike and I will need to discuss why our six year olds are struggling with the concept of aim when it comes to stomach bugs and emesis basins. Maybe that needs to be added to our homeschool curriculum.
But I'm not letting this viral respite go to waste.
It's been just a nasty week.
And a good one.
Monday, November 11, 2013
I have birthed dancers.
Yes I have.
All the kids have taken dance through the years and one has actually ended up being a professional dancer and teacher. Last year, Mike and I sat through what I think was our 18th year of dance recitals.
So, yes, I birth dancers.
But I cannot dance.
I mean, not in an Elaine Benes a la Jerry Seinfeld Lack of Self Awareness I Can't Dance Kind of Way. Oh no. I'm quite self aware on this topic.
Hi. My name is Julie and I can't dance.
I wasn't raised dancing, never took classes and had limited experience at school dances, of which the dancing involved seemed to involve either standing around the walls of the gymnasium staring at other wallflower members of the opposite sex or being navigated on the dance floor for a slow dance which involved more general standing relatively still while shuffling feet to said slow song. Not exactly Footloose. At all.
I sang with a country band back in the day and learned to two step in the big warehouse in which we performed every Friday night. Mike and I loved learning the various steps and turns.
But that's as far as a I got.
Texas Two Stepping.
Fast forward a couple of decades plus and eight kids later.
One of those dancing kids I birthed is now an adult and is teaching dance classes.
I signed up for her adult contemporary class.
I'm hilarious. That's the only word for me. Hilarious.
I'm taking the class with three of my friends, all of whom are dancers. Which makes me look even more hilarious.
When I signed up for the class, I thought, "Well, how many people can possibly be in the class? I can't embarrass myself too badly, right?"
I should have never underestimated My Daughter the Dance Teacher's popularity. The class is packed. With some really good dancers.
And there's this.
I don't think of myself as all that tall. But I look like a complete giraffe in this class, long bird legs flailing and all.
When I'm not confused and going the wrong direction, I'm giggling at myself. A lot. And I've given everyone permission to laugh along with me.
And I'm awkward. I'm very self conscious. I'm sometimes quite embarrassed.
Which is a very good thing.
As adults, we can often tend to shelter ourselves from that which makes us uncomfortable, that which takes us off familiar paths. Our lives are complex enough without adding experiences that can make us feel artless and blundering.
After all, isn't that exactly what junior high was for?
I like doing the things that I'm good at, the things I've developed a certain level of mastery for. It makes me feel good, makes me feel like I'm operating in the center of my identity.
Trying something new, trying something hard, trying something I'm not good at is so very, very good for me. It takes me to a place of humble learning, of connecting again with the feelings of being slightly out of the loop, building fresh compassion, fresh insight, fresh vulnerability.
I'm all the time pushing my kids to try new things, to venture into new arenas, to push themselves to discover more of where their gifts lie...and where they do not. And those invaluable lessons can only be learned by taking a deep breath, signing up for the class or the workshop or the training, opening the door and walking through.
It still applies to us as adults as well.
I'm doing it. I'm dancing. Not with grace, not with skill, not with abandon.
But I'm doing it.
And I'm learning.
And I'm awkward and odd and slightly embarrassed.
I'm doing it.
Even though it makes my hips look big.
Try. Try something new. Try on some awkward. And let the accomplishment be that you are brave enough to try.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Of all the rooms in our home, the kitchen is the most used, most abused, most trafficked, the most trashed.
Ten people, all on crazy schedules, with different times of meal prep and consumption. One pesco vegetarian, one gluten-free/dairy-free, one gluten-free/dairy-free/all organic/low-fat, one six-foot-tall-plus seventeen year old who needs to eat every fourteen minutes...you get the idea.
Our kitchen is an all-night, all-day diner. Except there's no management on site for every second of that schedule.
Certainly our kitchen condition would be mostly remedied if we gathered for a quick breakfast and clean-up, ate away from the home for lunch and circled back at an appointed time for a family dinner. But that's not how it works around here. Some of the crew leave at varying times each day for college classes and work. Some won't be getting up until later because of late dance rehearsals the night before. Some of the crew is at home at a reasonable dinner time...and most aren't. And then there's the reality of homeschooling in the midst of all this...the kitchen is always open and the pantry is always sacked.
Yes, the ideal would be if everyone simply and obediently took care of their own cooking debris.
And I want a purple unicorn too.
One of the great statements I heard years ago and wish I had author credit for was an anonymous quote that went a little something like this: You can't expect what you won't inspect.
And that's the hiccup in the Kitchen Chaos Theory.
It's tough to be constantly inspecting in a household that is always on the move, always on, always in motion. Add to that equation that Mike and I are in and out of the home for work commitments and you see the natural order of things.
Things tend toward chaos. Especially in the kitchen.
But it gets to me. It really does. It's so defeating to leave a kitchen fairly clean and wake up to a visage that looks like a frat party made pancakes in your kitchen.
What to do.
I finally recruited Mike to help come up with some solutions~~and he came up with a great one.
Everyone ten years old and up gets one.
The day they are completely responsible for the kitchen and the way it looks.
For example, 1 of 8's Kitchen Day is Monday. We tried to accommodate for heavy school and work days for individuals as best we could. But on someone's Kitchen Day, the ultimate condition of the kitchen is their responsibility.
With this caveat.
They can recruit anyone they so choose to help with the shoveling out of the kitchen on that day. So while Monday might be 1 of 8's Kitchen Day and ultimate responsibility, if she walks into said kitchen and the chaos loop is beginning to spin, she can gather any family members available and begin the recovery process.
Those who are recruited usually hate it. For those whose Kitchen Day it is, it is the caveat that makes the thing work and work well.
A stroke of genius on Mike's part, I might add.
The system isn't perfect and we have days that slip by and things come undone. But for the most part, seven of us having an assigned day and the role of inspector for that day has eased a good deal of the chaos.
And who knows?
One of these days, maybe, just maybe, we can expand the concept to things like bathrooms, living room, garage, yard.......
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
There are many, many things I don't get accomplished.
Case in point...my parents' 51st anniversary was yesterday. You should see the card I didn't send them.
Second case in point...my father-in-law's birthday was a couple of weeks ago. You should see the card I didn't send him.
The house is generally a mess, the interior of my van is a biohazard and our garage looks like is was sacked in some medieval overthrow. And we laugh a lot. And I love my work. And we just don't sweat the small stuff.
And some of the big stuff.
(See 'case in point' #1 and #2 above...)
There is one thing that I do try to overachieve on.
And that's our Christmas card every year.
I like to get them out the week of Thanksgiving. It's become something of a yearly goal, in a life where I always seem to be chasing deadlines and pulling all-nighters to finish projects.
This is the one thing I get done way ahead of time. Generally.
I try to get our family picture done in October and it's usually a DIY project. My amazing friend Shannon Lafayette is an incredible photographer and I really aspire to have her do our family portrait. But as much ahead as I try to get the Christmas cards done, I didn't manage to get on Shannon's calendar for the family photo.
Hence yet another DIY project, which involves me running back and forth between the camera and the family, self-timer engaged.
Once I get a couple of pictures of most of us looking the same direction, I edit in PicMonkey, a great online photo editing site. And for the past several years, I've had the cards printed at PSPrint, for whom I am not a paid a spokesperson. PSPrint is currently running 60% on their postcards, the product I use for our Christmas cards.
So why have I placed the yearly Christmas card production and mailing process as the apex of my limping ability to stay on top of things? No idea. I'll still be frantically trying to finish up Christmas prep on other items right as Santa is landing on my roof. My laundry will still be behind and I'll be scrambling to make sure I've got gift cards for all the coaches and dance teachers in our world.
For one shining moment in mid-November, I am ahead of the game.
Monday, November 4, 2013
Friday, November 1, 2013
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Something magical happens to this boy when he dons his Captain America suit.
He is transformed.
He is protective. Fast. Strong.
It's metamorphic. To him, at least.
What is it about us?
We want to be known and be seen and be treasured for exactly who we are. And yet we are so influenced when we don the guises of our various roles. Business wear and we are savvy and organized. Running gear and we hit the road. Pajamas and we are ready to tuck in.
Captain America and we are brave.
Are we hiding behind the garb? Or does it give us vision?
Perhaps that's one of the lingering effects of the Garden. There was a time we didn't need robes to define our roles. But Eve ate and so too did Adam and we've covered and created and costumed ever since.
And we have vision.
Of ourselves, we are scared, naked, ashamed, vulnerable.
We can put on truth. Righteousness. Salvation. Faith.
We can clothe ourselves with heroic character.
And become a heroic character.
We can be braver than we think.
And worn often enough, we can become the role we dress for.
Still prone to worry. To vulnerability. To fear.
Braver than before.