Tomorrow is Another Day

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I haven’t had much time for photography lately, but I knew the light would be perfect — it always is at this time just before dusk in September.  The shadows are long, and the seed heads on the grass practically glow in those elongated rays of sunshine.  I finally had a chance to go through the photos this weekend.

Ella. Is. A. Ham.

But this one stills my heart…

Ella Sept 2013 NST

I look forward to the weekends.  But the last two have left me feeling like a slug…like there was no weekend…no rest.  This morning I awakened early to birds chirping in the darkness.  Though it was early, I got up, put on a pot of coffee, and read my email.  I made the lunches, and one by one the little people started to come down the stairs all sleepy-eyed and sweatshirted and smiley.  These people make the day all kinds of wonderful for me.

There will be no shortage of activities this week…we have five football practices, two volleyball practices, two cheer practices, riding lessons, two nights of CCD, a girl scout meeting, basketball workout, basketball tryouts, two football games, two volleyball games and of course, a Hokie game to watch (and while I’m thinking about it, the Hokies should totally be ranked.  That’s all.).  It is David’s birthday tomorrow, and I have errands to run…dry cleaning, vegetable pick up, groceries.  There is church on Sunday.  Plus, I have about 28 hours of work to put in.

Then there is the homework.  And the music practice.  And cleaning the baritone.  (In case you are a beginning baritone player reading this, take note:  when you remove the valves on the baritone, be sure to put them back in the right order, or you will spend the next two hours with Google trying to figure out why your baritone will not work anymore).  We have reading to do.  And supplies to collect for the less fortunate for service projects and on and on and on.  Oh, and the studying for tests.  I especially appreciate it when the children are tested on material that was not covered in class.  Like Algebra.  Oh, how I do love Algebra.  It’s just that when I wake up at 5:00am on a Saturday morning worried about how I’m going to teach something to my child and spend the next two hours researching how to simplify a negative radical and then teach it to my child using the concept of imaginary numbers, and then find out that the answer the teacher expects to the entire bleepity equation is “no real answer” I get a little bit frustrated.

From the time I am done working on any given day of the week, I create a mental list of what needs to be done next.  I have about one hour until I need to leave to walk the kids home from school.  And so I race.  I put in a load of laundry.  I take out a load of laundry and fold it.  I feed Poppy.  I let Poppy out.  I pick the tomatoes and the squash.  I water the potted plants.  I make appointments.  I strip the beds.  I pay a couple bills.  I pull something out for dinner.  I file Poppy’s nails.  I fill out the forms the kids have given me for CCD, or for field trips or for after school clubs, or picture orders.  I sign them up for sports.  I empty the dishwasher.  Sometimes I run a quick errand.  I buy birthday gifts, wedding gifts, baby gifts.  I get the mail.  I deadhead some flowers if there is any time at all on any day of the week to get it done.  I trim shrubs, or limb up trees.  I pay allowances.  I bake cookies.  I write love notes.  Somewhere in between all of the practices and homework and carpool runs, I make supper.

It’s all the same stuff we all do and yet I look around at other moms…they seem to be doing things a little more gracefully than me.  It feels a little as though I’m running a marathon.  Except everyone else is an actual marathon runner, while I’m way out of shape, with shin splints and a sloppy sweatshirt on, and running out of peppiness fast.

I keep thinking that if we can get through the week, maybe on the weekend I can get to the vacuuming and the dusting and maybe I can clean those bathrooms.  And then the weekend comes…and goes…and there are still cobwebs in the corners and lip marks on the French doors (why must they put their mouths on things even still?!) and a glob of toothpaste in the sink.  I still feel something sticky by the fridge.  And clearly, I didn’t do a very good job cleaning that spot on the couch because it looks bigger now.

And I am sick.

The amazing thing is that every day I wake up feeling like I’m going to accomplish SO much.

And then I don’t.

“But tomorrow is another day,” I say to myself.  (The power of positive thinking).

Yes it is.

And you know what?  Why dust today, when you can put it off for another week or two?

All’s Well that Ends Well

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Well.  *That* weekend didn’t exactly go as planned.  (But then, does it ever really?)

We got home from Henry’s game and got ourselves set to watch the Hokies play.  Henry looked exhausted, but I assumed he was just tired from being an absolute BEAST out there (because he was.  An absolute beast.).  About an hour later, I felt his neck and he was on fire.  So the weenie-roast-s’mores-eating-watermelon-seed-spitting-fun time was off.

Sunday we had to split up for mass because both Ella and Henry were sick.  SOOoooo…there wasn’t much time for gardening because I forgot I also had to get groceries.  Food tends to trump yardwork in my house, especially where the male peoples are concerned.  So the weekend was kind of a mess.

Henry stayed home from school on Monday.  We planned a day full of legos and movie watching.  I made kettle corn and we sat together under a fuzzy blanket and Henry shared his gummy eyeballs with me.  It just doesn’t get much better than that.

He had a fever again that night, which meant no school on Tuesday, either–school rules.  David stayed home with him on Tuesday morning while I was out.  I received the following message from the man:

“Henry should have gone to school today.”

When I arrived home they were outside running plays for his football game scheduled for that night.

Yes.

Yes, I did let him play in his game.  I do not need any lectures on that thank you.  There were extenuating circumstances and that is all I will say about that at this juncture.

They won.  Henry played great.

And then he went to school on Wednesday and all was right with the world (until today, when Kate came home with a sore throat).

The end.

On a September Night

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It’s Friday night and I’m sitting here at Ella’s cheer practice.  September evenings are some of the most beautiful evenings here in Virginia.  There is very low humidity and the temperatures are in the 70s.  The trees are just beginning to change colors–just the slightest hints of pink in the maples, claret in the oaks.  It is 6:00, and the sun is falling, yet still spilling it’s warmth on us.  Kate is sitting next to me, braiding her hair while I write.  I love having her here.  I love the quiet between us — I hear simply the breeze through the trees and the sound of nine little girls practicing their cheers in the distance.

The boys are at football practice.  They will come home battered, as usual, and starving, as usual.  We’ll eat barbecued chicken, squash from our zucchini and squash plants, and steak fries.  We probably won’t get more than one or two more squash from those plants this summer…fall is approaching fast.  The tomatoes are still coming, though…I wonder how long they’ll last.  I think we were still getting tomatoes in mid-October last year.

I have a lot of basil to deal with.  I need to make some pesto.  And the “flowers” need serious work.  I tried to leave the coneflowers for the goldfinches — they like the seeds — but I can’t take it any longer.  I need to deadhead them.

And the crepe myrtles need trimming.

And the lavender needs to be dug up.

And the yarrow must be moved.  The coreopsis needs to be trimmed and divided.  There is so much to do I can’t list it all here.  The yard will be Sunday’s project, because Saturday is reserved for football.  David has set the DVR to record the Hokie game, the Texas A&M game, Ohio State and the Notre Dame game.

Will(iam) and Henry both have games in the morning.  This season is different…I think it may be their last season of football — their choice.  (I do not know exactly when it was that they stopped loving me…).  So I watch them play with this little spark of hope that they will want to go on, yet at the same time the heavy realization that this is probably one of the last times I will be cheering on the sidelines as a football mom.  Life does go on, though I can’t imagine a better way to spend my Saturdays (for real).

Tomorrow night we are going to roast weenies in the fire pit out back.  We’ll eat watermelon, and chips and s’mores and drink in the last few sips of summer.

There is a string of clouds that has moved in and blanketed the sun.  People are putting on their sweatshirts to keep out the chill.  The girls are still practicing — orange pompoms rustling, pony tails bobbing, little girls jumping.  In just a few weeks, autumn’s cold air will be nipping at their noses.  With every word that escapes their mouths will come a puff of frosty air; their cheeks will be ruddied and they’ll be bundled in fleece hats and sweatshirts; and the sun will set before supper.

I remember those nights…coming home to a warmly lit house, supper on the stove and a soft, furry puppy whose tail rhythmically thumps the wall in time with the beating of my heart.

This year, it has taken a while, but I think I’m finally looking forward to fall.

Dust

The first thing I did this morning was brew the coffee.  Poppy stared at me the entire time…she was waiting for her lettuce.  She likes a little piece of lettuce every morning to kick start her day.  So I give her one when I make the kids’ sandwiches. She takes it into the family room so she can really enjoy it.  Sometimes she rolls around on it.  I don’t know why.  Mostly she just crunches it up.

Then I made the kids’ lunches (only three today because William was buying his lunch).  Three peanut butter and banana sandwiches, three bags of something crunchy, three apple sauces and two yogurts.  Plus a little salt water taffy for fun.  Hey, if you can’t be at the beach, you can at least eat the taffy.

I showered, then I watered the plants and checked on the zucchini, kissed four beautiful faces goodbye for the day and watched as they left.

I spent the next 5 1/2 hours working.

And then I went to Dick’s, because Kate needed knee pads for volleyball.  And I like to go and look at their handguns and their ammunition and stuff.  I don’t know why.  I just like the little boxes full of cartridges.  I like how heavy they are and how the cardboard box kind of jangles when you shake it.  That’s probably weird.

When I got home, I folded the laundry, and pulled out some meat for tomorrow’s supper from the freezer.  Tomorrow, we’re having pulled pork, cole slaw and watermelon.  Tonight we had grilled cheese and tomato soup.

The kids had CCD when they got home from school…Ella was super excited but not the boys.  Kate had CCD last night, and loved her class.

After CCD, Ella had cheer practice and Kate had volleyball.  And then we had to finish up the homework that didn’t get done before all of this started, which was pretty much all of it.  I am not a fan of 8:00 homework.

That pretty much wrapped up my day…and what did I accomplish?  I went non-stop all day, and I accomplished very little it seems.  I am learning to accept that.  I am learning that I don’t even care all that much anymore because ANY human is physically incapable of accomplishing what I would like to accomplish in one 24 hour period unless they had a full staff, which I don’t.  (Okay, yes I do care.  But I can let go of it because I know I am unrealistic with my expectations.)

Last night, I walked by the dining room table which was dusted by Ella a week or two ago.  Around the outside of the table is a light ring of dust, and in the center of the table the dust is thick.  It is clear that she didn’t manage to get to the center of the table with her duster.  How precious she must have looked with her little duster, dusting that big table.  I wish I had seen her.

I do not like to dust.  I blame that on my mom because she made me dust that table with 172 giraffe figurines on it every week.  The kids did most of the dusting this summer in between episodes of sponge bob which was awesome (for me).

Sometimes, when the dusting hasn’t been done (which is actually most of the time nowadays), you can see their hand prints on that table.  Sometimes I wonder why they have to touch the table at all when they are walking by.  And sometimes I think they leave those prints behind to remind me.  So that one day, like today, when I’m alone, and the house is quiet, I will see that little hand print and I will ache to touch those little hands.

There will come a day when I will walk through this house and there will be no hand prints to dust.  No lip marks on the side light windows by the front door. No sticky lemonade drips by the refridgerator.  There will be no crumbs and no socks on the floor and no sweatshirts on the couch and no mouth guards on the counter and no muddy shoes in the garage.  And no one will be singing Jingle Bells in September, and no one will be orchestrating a plan to buy the latest version of Madden for xbox and I won’t buy cartons and cartons of snacks at Costco for school lunches anymore.  There won’t be anyone to borrow my shoes and not give them back…no one to write love notes to anymore.

They will all be gone.

And I will wish for the days when my house was dusty.

None of it seems right.

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I woke up early today.

I didn’t buy the kids new school clothes, and that was a problem to me at 5:00am this morning.  It was a calculated decision, based on the loads and loads of clothes that ALL of them have, that we DO. NOT. NEED. another Nike shirt, or dress or sparkle-T. But this morning, I wondered if that was the wrong decision.  I wondered if I should have bought something–anything–new for them for the first day of school.  And so I couldn’t sleep.  I got up and put on a pot of coffee and figured I could facebook my anxiety away, but honestly that never works.  There, in the pretty world of facebook, you get to see the highlights of everyone’s lives.  No one talks about anything good on there, like a dog barfing up deer poop, or kids that forget to flush the toilet, or potty mouths, or dust/laundry/dirty dishes piling up.  And I am left feeling so inadequate.

I have spent the bulk of this summer trying to salvage it.  Between trying to work from home, and nursing broken bones and weird weather, it hasn’t been all that fun.  And this is the last Friday of summer.  How do I make that fun?  How do I make that memorable?  Do I have to make it memorable like all the other moms seem to?

Crap.

And so I found myself frustrated.  Frustrated at everything.  At the house that is messy, at the dog that is barking, at the kids that want breakfast, and snack and lunch and snack and another snack and it seems like all they want to do is just eat all the live long day (kind of like me, actually.  Which made me want to eat chocolate.  I would have settled for chocolate in any form, yet there is not a speck of chocolate in this house because I ate it all last week).  I am tired of competing with the tv for attention.  I am tired of driving for 45 minutes to go to the office so my employer gets “face time.”  I am frustrated that I’m squeezing an accounting job into my day.  I am frustrated that there are always shoes on the floor, or sweatshirts on the couch, or socks or something.  I am frustrated with it all.

I have been listening to parents get so excited about school starting.  But, in the back of my mind, I am heartbroken.

I feel like this summer has been a complete bust.  I feel like I have wasted the last chance I had to be with them.  And while I usually feel somewhat regretful that summer is over, this year it seems worse…like I am losing something that I will never, ever get back.

Things are changing for me.  Perhaps that is the problem.  What I know, without a doubt, is that I will miss them this school year.  I will miss their hugs all day long.  I will miss the way William is becoming funnier with every day that passes, and hearing him yell at his Madden 13 team.  I will miss hearing Kate play viola in her room.  I will miss Henry and Ella and the little games they play (which always end up with Ella getting hurt — but not really hurt — and sobbing like she is dying because she is a drama queen).  I will miss knowing where they are at every moment and what they are doing and what they are learning, watching, reading, drawing, writing, eating.

I will wonder if William is eating lunch with kids he doesn’t know, or if he is with a friend.  I will wonder if Henry is going to get Ella after school like we practiced…if he is going to take good care of her like he promised.  I will wonder if Kate is making the right kind of girlfriends.

And I will be taking on a different role.  My life will change.

None of it seems right to me.

I wish I could take them and run.

I wish I could have a do-over on summer.

August

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August.  I think it is becoming my favorite month.  I don’t think I’d given much thought to it before…it was sort of just sitting there in between July and September…not as fun as July with it fireworks and barbecues and whatnot, and not as glorious as September when school starts and the weather cools down and football is in full swing.

But this year, August looks a little different to me.  August means slow days of sunshine and freezer pops and walks and bike rides and picnics.  August means, sadly, the last few weeks of having the kids home with me all day, and of me creating my own schedule.  The last few weeks of sipping coffee without the rush of having to go somewhere.  August is beautiful weather…beautiful, beautiful sunshine and warm days.  Tomatoes and basil that are abundant.  Butterflies…they finally seem to have found our garden.  We found five tiny eggs on dill in our garden and brought them inside to watch them cycle through their life.  They are in their chrysalises right now, and in about a week will begin to emerge as black swallowtails.

And August is football and cheer…helmets and mouth guards, pads and water bottles…pom poms and hair bows and bloomers and learning a dance that I am too old to look good doing but must learn in order to help Ella practice.

The boys have started football.  I don’t think my life could feel more complete at this point.  Seriously.  Last night William had a scrimmage.  The field was set high on a hill, and in the distance are hills and mountains.  It was beautiful.  I sat and listened to the whistles blowing and the helmets cracking against pads and the coaches yelling “find the ball” and “hit somebody” and “atta boy” and I can’t tell you the peace that surged through me. It is just all kinds of wonderful if you ask me.  William comes home every night with new (large) bruises and bumps and scrapes.  Which secretly thrills me a teensy.  Is it weird that I like the bruises?  I told him so last night…I told him that “I kinda like your bruises, Pal.”  And he said, “yeah, they make you look tough.”  Then we both smiled.  He is happy.

The other day I made a plum breakfast cobbler.  Holy wow.  I am going to make another one, maybe today.  I need to deadhead the coneflowers, and try to pollinate the zucchini plants.  I have a whole lotta male flowers, and no females…which means no zucchini (I learned that yesterday).  Then I’ll pick a few tomatoes, chop and freeze them.  I think I will cut some basil too, while I’m at it.  I made an orange basil vinaigrette a couple weeks ago that was also holy wow, so I’ll make some more of that.  And we have a few school supplies to get.  The boys have about 20 wii games we’re going to sell for a little spending cash, and then we’ll come home to make fajitas before we head out to football and cheer practice.  It will be another late night.

Tomorrow we will wake up early, and head out to football…pictures, scrimmages, silent auctions and carnival games, and of course, some junk food.  I am so looking forward to all of it.

Life feels good today.

Day Six

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This is day 6 of the fractured arm, and I think I am going to begin tracking time in this manner, as everything seems to revolve around the arm.

It is also the fifth straight day of 90+ degree temperatures, which is great in the summer because you can just hit the pool to cool off.  Except that we can’t because William has a broken arm and it is not casted and the orthopedist said no, he cannot just take the splint/brace thing off real quick for a fun time in the pool.  I asked.

Then I asked if he could play in his basketball tournament this weekend.  Or the one next weekend, and the good doctor kind of looked at me like I was dumb.  I guess I just wanted to be sure, you know, before I actually went through with the torture of my son having to sit around watching everyone else have fun some more.

And then I asked him about when he could start playing football because the first day of conditioning is in only a few weeks and he must have thought I was one of those insane moms that pushes their kids to do too much when the truth is that if I do not have this boy involved in something physical for about 90% of his waking hours he will go crazy and therefore so will I.  Plus, if he can’t play, I want my registration fees back.

So he can’t shoot hoops because it is about 130 million degrees on our driveway plus he has a broken arm.

He can’t play catch because he has a broken arm.

He can’t play x-box because he has a broken arm and it hurts, strangely enough, to play x-box.

We can’t go to the pool because he has a broken arm.

We can’t ride bikes because he has a broken arm.

We can’t take a walk because it is 130 million degrees and I am just not that foolish.

So he is bored.  I tried to play a game with him.  (I should confess that I don’t really like board games.)  He got mad because he lost his job as an attorney and became something else that made significantly less money and then he quit and decided to be the banker.  Which interested him for about 15 minutes.  He doesn’t like board games either.  They should call them bored games.  Because they’re boring, get it?

Then we turned on the TV.  If I have to watch another episode of Jessie I’m going to go nuts.  I have that awful song in my head “It feels like a party everyday!  Hey Jessie!”  ALL DAY LONG.  So I sing it with the wrong words on purpose because it drives the kids crazy and that is what I’m all about when we’ve been cooped up for 6 days.

The television has even lost it’s luster at this point.

This morning William found a pack of sticky notes and put one on Henry’s back that said “Call me crazy.”  Then Ella tried to put one on William’s back that said “I eat my poop.”  It was in Henry’s handwriting, so I know they were in cahoots.  

Good times.

Good, good times, for real.

The dinner plates don’t match.

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The dinner plates don’t match.

Somehow over the last 17 years we have collected a bunch of plastic plates that the kids use at breakfast, lunch and even dinner.  When we were first married, we started out with 8 place settings of basic white dinnerware from Williams Sonoma, and we are down to 6 dinner plates and 4 salad plates.  I am not even sure how many soup plates we have left, but I noticed the other day that one of them is chipped and is not long for this world.

For a couple of years now I’ve been wanting to add to that dinnerware…but they don’t sell that basic white pattern anymore.  And now that I’m a little more confident in who I am, I’d like something a little different anyway.  Something that has a little personality.  Back then, when I bought these, I was so afraid to get anything that made a statement, because what if it didn’t go with anything else?  And so my home was very…basic.  And boring.  But everything matched.

This morning as I was rinsing that chipped soup plate, I remembered one night when I was a teenager, probably 17 or something like that, when I thought all the world was staring at me waiting for me to do something wrong.  I was setting the table and my David was coming over for dinner.  And I realized for the first time that nothing matched.  NOTHING.  The plates didn’t match.  The utensils didn’t match.  The cups didn’t match.  And I did not like that not one little bit.  Because what is more horrifying to a 17 year old girl trying to impress a boy than a table that doesn’t match (I can think of a few things but stick with me here)?  And because when I had gone to his house, everything matched.  And I think they had cloth napkins even.  And candles.  And a snuffer!  (To this day I have only ever seen a snuffer at his house and in the movies.  True story.)  Yes, they were fancy people with a snuffer.  And they used that snuffer to extinguish the flame so that they wouldn’t get wax on their tablecloth.

Good Lord, they had a tablecloth.

My mom long ago abandoned the idea of a tablecloth because we spilled milk every.single.night.  Every night.  And that was just more laundry than she needed to be doing so goodbye tablecloths.

I wish I could go back to one of those dinners.  I wish I could watch my brother, who hated green beans with a passion, dig through the bowl to find the two shortest beans.  (Two was the minimum vile green bean requirement.)  I wish I could see those spinny chairs we had.  I wish I could see the seven of us crowded around the table to eat.  And the spilled milk…and how Mom would freak out and yell about how we spilled something EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!  I wish I could watch my dad finish everyone’s plates.  I wish I could watch us sitting there, whimpering because we had to eat two bites of fish, which we doused in ketchup, before we could leave the table, and how my mom would set the little timer on that avocado green stove and when we weren’t looking she would add time to it so that we wouldn’t have to go to bed early.  I wish I could see her wash the table with the sponge, and scrape up the little stuck on bits with her thumb nail, then wipe them up with the sponge.  I wish I could see that little family together again…hear what we talked about…hear the small voices.

These things are worth remembering.

These things are lovely.

But I wonder if it bothered my mom, that things didn’t match.  That her table was half set with brown-ringed plates and half set with blue-ringed, pink-flowered plates.  With three different patterns of forks and spoons and knives and seven different glasses.  

(Maybe if we had stopped bringing the spoons outside to dig in the dirt all the time, well, maybe the spoons would have matched.)

(And maybe if we hadn’t kept on spilling the milk and breaking the glasses, well maybe we would have actually had a matching set of those Flintstone glasses from McDonalds.)

My sense is that Mom was more concerned about buying new shoes and feeding five little mouths than she was about a table that matched.

It’s not going to bother me either.  It only took 25 years, but I have finally learned that it isn’t really all that important in the bigger picture.  What is important is being together.  Sharing time and stories and meals together.

Our table will be colorful.  And our bellies will be full…

…but maybe not quite as full as our hearts.

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