My week of stay-cation is coming to a close. Dan and the children will be back from their East Coast road trip this evening. I had two main goals while they were gone: 1) finish grading the papers that were the reason I stayed home in the first place; 2) bring a bit more order to the swirling mass of chaos that is our home. In addition to these two pursuits, I enjoyed quiet *uninterrupted* visits with friends, daily *uninterrupted* naps, eating mostly cookies and Easter candy all day every day (a bit sickening, but still), daily walks, the ability to concentrate, and a virtually empty calendar. Each morning when I awoke, I could feel myself sneaking around the house, hoping for a few moments to myself before the children woke up. Then I remembered, turned on all the lights, and made as much noise as I pleased. After an entire week, the dishwasher is still not full, but I ran it this morning anyway. I can see the bottom of the dirty laundry hampers, and I have even washed the extra towels and bedding which have waited for months at the bottom of the pile while more pressing things (like underwear) get washed first.
I have a hard time understanding people on the phone, especially my children. This makes me want to avoid calling them when we are apart. So I decided that for this week, we would try to communicate via email. I tried to send them an update each day of what I was doing, and they sent me frequent messages as well. I really enjoyed that.
Some of the major projects I have worked on: moving the computer and printer from the basement to the kitchen. Moving the kitchen table from the kitchen to the dining room. Moving the desk from the dining room into the kitchen and putting the computer and printer on it. Clearing off and getting rid of the bookshelf and dresser full of junk in the dining room that were supposed to help me keep everything looking neat and tidy. Moving the bookshelf from the dining room into the girls' bedroom, and moving the too-small bookcase from their bedroom into the entryway. I am very happy with my new kitchen-office. It makes so much sense to have all of the major tools I use during the day together in one room. I have cleared out one bank of kitchen cupboards to house office supplies. I also love having the kitchen table out in the dining room because it is so sunny and bright there, and now the kitchen feels much less crowded and crazy.
I have also been gathering toys from all over the house and trying to sort and put them away. They don't really have a home. I'm never sure if I want them to be in the basement or in the girls' room. In either case, there is no toy shelf for them. Maybe this is why they are always all over the floor? This is a project I need to finish today, so my gathering and sorting will not be in vain! I also need to fold and put away the giant mountain of laundry I have piled up on Esther's bed in her absence. And I'm going to have to start thinking about cooking and eating real food again. The cookie-Easter candy-occasional-take-out-meal-from-a-restaurant diet may not be the best way to feed a family of 6.
Living alone has been so easy. When the family returns tonight, they will bring a big load of stress with them, as well as several big loads of dirty laundry. One of the most stressful part of raising 4 children for me right now is also one of the most basic: keeping them fed. During the 2.5 short weeks that we had a dog, I loved how easy it was to feed him--just pour 1/2 cup of dry kibble in his bowl twice a day and he was good. Feeding little humans is much harder! I think I make it much harder than it needs to be by fighting it. I put it off, avoid it, and it hangs over me and follows me around all day, whining. I'm hoping when the kids get back I can make some progress in the direction of accepting and embracing this responsibility, keeping on top of it, or even ahead of it. Same with keeping them clothed. I think a lot of my daily stress and misery would be eliminated if I would focus on feeding and clothing the children in a more determined, mindful way. When I try to run away from the necessity of repeating these tasks over and over again, there is the nearly daily unpleasant surprise that someone is completely out of underwear or socks, or that someone has poured milk on their cereal but there are no clean spoons. I think this wears on me much more than just accepting the fact that I need to do dishes, laundry and meal preparation every day forever and ever, even if I don't want to. As I've seen this week, I can get away with only doing those tasks once a week when I live alone, but I do not live alone. And I am glad I do not live alone--it is a blessing to have a house full of children and a nice husband. But if I want to be happier, I need to stop avoiding the necessary daily repetitive work that must be done. Well, that is my lecture to myself for the day!