In the last few days, these have been Levi's favourite things to wear. He goes and finds them from the shoe stash in our entrance first thing int he morning, brings them to you (one at a time, sometimes), and stands there holding them out to you, making his little ascending-pitch "uh?" sound that is his general word whenever he has a question or wants something. Once you help him put them on, he is happy as a clam, proud as punch, and wears them for pretty much the rest of the day.
Over the last few years, there are several things that go along with modern living that I have willingly given up: pre-packaged food, store-bought veggies (as much as possible) and a street cleaner that takes care of the snow in front of my house being among them.
Others were given up slightly less willingly. For instance, my dishwasher. When we first moved to the country two summers ago, the trailer we bought had a portable dishwasher in it. However, it didn't take long to notice that it was sitting in the location originally intended for the fridge. The fridge had been moved across the room to a very awkward position, stuffed into a coat closet into which it did not fit properly, therefore protruding into the room about 18 inches farther than necessary. This interrupted the flow of traffic through the house, and used valuable space (something that was at a premium).
In fact, it became such an annoyance, and the space I was working in seemed so crowded to me, that it wasn't long before I decided that I would rather return the fridge to its intended location than have a dishwasher. This would improve the efficiency of the kitchen, the traffic flow through the house, and for all I could tell, the dishwasher didn't work properly anyway.
I don't regret that decision. However, I didn't realize how having to do three loads of dishes by hand every day would actually affect our lifestyle, some ways more subtly than others.
For instance, I used to love to experiment with cooking. Experimenting is something that usually takes extra time, and uses extra dishes. With the amount of time already spent on my feet in the kitchen, hands in the dishpan, I had slipped into a "fast-and-tested" menu plan before I had even realized it, all because I had no desire to spend any more time in the kitchen.
Also, the post-supper dishes were usually done by my wonderful husband. This meant that by the time the dishes were done, it was time to put the kids to bed, and they had not had nearly as much time as they wanted to play with him.
After Jude (the kid who thrives on "quality time") found out that our new home would have a dishwasher, he declared that it was the part he was most excited about.
"Why?" I asked, curious. It's not like he usually did the dishes, after all.
"Because then Daddy will have more time to play with us after supper."
My reasons were different, but I, too, was looking forward to having one, so that I would just have more time in general. After a few hiccups working through issues with our extremely hard, iron-laden water (sitting a 1/4-cup of white vinegar on the top rack in every load is essential if we don't want our dishes to look like they are covered in chalk), it has proven to be exactly the reprieve I had hoped it would be from dishpan hands and aching feet and back. And the best part? I have started experimenting again.
Speaking of modern conveniences, I am happy to report that we have had a working furnace for several weeks, now. We also have power in our addition, thanks to a couple of electrician friends who made sure of it. And after a week of having no oven (it shorted out on me Friday before last), Jason brought our other stove over from the "parts trailer"--which has its own issues, but at least the oven works (most of the time.) Which means that finally, we are almost all the way "moved in."
We are thankful for these modern conveniences--the weatherman says the snow is on its way.
Dreaming of pursuing my passions, and what recently happened on the music front.
Because, despite the otherwise-craziness of this summer, childhood and warm weather both pass too quickly to not stop and enjoy them.
"To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors, and holidays; to be Whitely within a certain area, providing toys, boots, cakes, and books; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute." - G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World
This is an article I wrote in 2004 (before the word "blog" had entered my vocabulary.) I was reminded of it the other night when someone looked at my three little boys and once again I heard the words "so, you're busy." Although I only had two at the time of writing this, not much has changed in my perspective. Enjoy.
“So, You’re Busy!”
by Talena Winters
“So, you’re busy,” I hear, for the fourth time that day. This time, it comes from the matronly lady at the Wal-Mart checkout, as she eyes four-month-old Noah in the stroller, and 20-month-old Jude perched precariously on top of it.I am trying to rummage through my purse with one hand, looking for my debit card, while preventing Jude from toppling to the floor with the other, as he is fearlessly reaching toward the debit machine because he likes “helping Mommy with the buttons.” I smile at the clerk, and say, “But in a good way,” finish paying for my goods, and mercifully get to leave the store behind, with its many temptations for little fingers.
I am never quite sure how to respond to that comment. Are people saying I am crazy to have chosen to have two children, only sixteen months apart? Or are they secretly trying to discover if I have chosen this? Are they commenting on the energy little boys are known to have, and imagining if it were them trying to keep up? Or simply trying to express empathy for the “harried mother?” So many things that could be wrapped up in one innocent sentence.
Yes, I have to admit, there are days when I look back at my life “before children” and wonder what I did to keep myself occupied. I remember that I was always busy then, too. Busy with trying to get my home-based business to succeed. Busy in indulging my own pleasures. Busy with trying to accomplish dreams that seemed so important. Always working at my busy-ness, all day long, afraid of what would happen if I ever slowed down for just a moment and reviewed what all of it was accomplishing.
I question, now, as I examine my life, why I always felt so much “busier” then, and why I am so much happier, now. If busy-ness can be equated with the amount of work and personal projects one can cram into a day, am I really busy?
No mother can deny the amount of work it takes to shape young lives into something of value—to focus and direct the boundless energy, imagination, and enthusiasm that each child carries in their little heart. But do you really consider it work to explain, for the “nth” time, that they need to apologize when they hurt someone, the first time you see them do it voluntarily? Do you really count all the times you’ve named that colour, or letter, or animal, when they finally recognize it and name it themselves, and pride fills your heart at your young genius? Are the acts of discipline you have to hand out regretted when you see your child spontaneously perform an act of kindness and empathy for someone else? Do not a simple hug and kiss erase all the frustrations of the day?
The quality of my busy-ness has changed since becoming a mother. To spend my days instructing my children, loving them, and encouraging them, seems of much more worth than the vain and selfish pursuits I used to partake in. Perhaps this is what the outsider who comments on my daily life is seeing—the self-denial it takes to be a mother, regardless of the number or age of your children. You no longer have the time to be selfish. Perhaps they are secretly relieved it is not them, and admiring of someone who would be willing to give up so much of themselves to further the species.
As for myself, I do not begrudge these days that are filled with the rearing of two little boys. Although they are still so young, I already know in my heart that it passes far too quickly, and soon enough my young fledglings will grow up and fly from the nest. Then, I will have all the time I need—forty years or more, most likely—to pursue all of the things that I have had to set aside right now. I will probably look back with longing on the days when my sons were small enough to fit in a stroller, labeling them “good ol’.”
So, the next time some stranger tells me how busy I am, I will take it as a compliment. And without any pretense at all, I will confidently smile at them and say, “I wouldn’t trade it for the world!”
July 4, 2004