Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Cleansing Project, Need #1: Our Kitchen, Our Food

My life will always have dirty dishes.
If this sink can become
a place of contemplation,
let me learn constancy here.
~Gunilla Norris

The kitchen.

In my meditation on the needs of this household over the past couple weeks, my attention continues to wander full circle back to the kitchen. It seems I spend approximately 70% of my waking home hours cooking in it, cleaning it or planning out the execution of our daily lives in it. This is our art gallery, our walls feathered with primary color paintings, foam art, paper cuttings of various shapes and sizes. It is also our art studio and game room; an entire cabinet dedicated to Play-Do, paints, stickers, puzzles and the like. This is Baby Food Maker Central with all the steaming, pureeing, freezing and bagging that entails. This is the room that needs to be cleaned at least three times every day. This is the meal and week-planning hub of our lives...the stacks of cookbooks, grocery lists, coupon inserts, flyers, activity notices and calendars attesting to the fact that "shit happens here"...and not in an entirely organized way. This is the room that so often hears "What the hell are we going to have for dinner?!" as I dig, hip-deep through the contents of the freezer. The room that witnesses my blind rush in the morning when I realized that, again, I failed to plan and pack school lunch the night before. The room that cringes when I sigh in frustration that, again, I procrastinated in the weekly grocery shop and now we're out of milk.

Clearly, my meal planning could benefit from a bit of an overhaul. As could the command center that is Our Kitchen.

And so last week I finally bit the bullet. I sent Sascha and the kids on a pre-planned activity with well-stocked diaper bag and sat down at the kitchen table, amidst my piles, and began the painful process of planning our food for the week. For some reason, I loathe this part of my job and I think it's because I never learned to cook, how to plan meals, how to enjoy it. I never learned and it doesn't come naturally so I battle with this. And, damnit, it's time to come to terms. Gone will be the panicked mid-week mini shops after I imaginatively come up with dinner on the drive to preschool pickup. No longer will I scrape the bottom of the baby formula can and realize there is not a back-up can. I enthusiastically welcomed the idea of Organized Living.

It took me an hour and a half.

Granted, 40 minutes of that was spent griping to a friend and saging the house (nothing like clearing out the emotional debris, I say). But still, it took me that long to focus on the task at hand and knock out a menu for four people (with vastly different eating preferences) for a week. It'll get easier, it'll get easier, it'll get easier...

When I returned from the planned and organized grocery shop 90 minutes later, the house seemed fresher, more attractive and I felt a lot more calm about the coming week. Maybe smudging the house helped, maybe it was having a plan and feeling prepared in one realm of existence. Whatever the reason, "fresh" and "attractive" are welcome feelings. And I think I'll do it again this week.

Some Online Support (S.O.S.)

Raise Healthy Eaters 's Family Meal Planning Series has been a godsend. This entire blog, started by a San Diego mom struggling to feed her young, picky child, provides nutrition information, recipe ideas and emotional support for parents in similar situations. Kicks butt.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slaying The Dragon

I was searching for reassurance this morning as I took five minutes to luxuriate in a sip of hot, fresh coffee and sit down with my Daybook of Comfort and Joy in the 10:30 a.m. silence granted by preschool and naptime. The past week has me spinning, exhausted and falling prey to the germs lurking in our dusty, cat-hairy corners. With a preschooler finally back in preschool, an infant with a nasty cough and a husband still in bed with the flu, things have been piling up and my excitement over the commencement of last week's project is quickly turning into panic as I realize my week is up soon and I have yet to accomplish A THING...aside from some extreme pessimism and self-directed frustration at my own tantrums and outbursts over the past week.

So I was searching for reassurance as I communed with Ms. Ban Breathnach, hoping to find a light for the end of my tunnel or a silver lining for my cloud.

She talked with me about dragons.
Our dragons are our fears: our day stalkers, our night sweats. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failing. Fear of starting something new and not finishing. Again. Or the real fear....the fear of succeeding...and facing the changes that will inevitably bring.
And I realized that I have some dragons. We all do, I suppose. And to just blithely trip through life without taking our dragons into account is an act of lunacy, if not downright sabotage.

And I think that's what happened to me this week. I forgot to allow for the dragon. Her name is Betsy. She's chartreuse. With a pink tail. Yes, she's sassy-looking but she's not real nice. She's made up of a considerable amount of self-contempt and impatience, which then leads to a donning of gray-tinted glasses. She doesn't finish things. She's kind of selfish, needing and desiring some "me" time and look out if she doesn't get it. Yet at the same time she puts herself and her needs in absolute last place forming a sort of passive-aggressive self-care program (or lack thereof). None of this is remotely beneficial in raising a family and running a home.

So that's Betsy. She's been there the whole time but we were never introduced until this morning. I wish I could tell you that we're now working out our differences but that's not quite the case. What we're currently doing is that wary, circular dance, glaring at each other through slitted, suspicious eyes. I supposed I'm her dragon too.

I hope I'll have something concrete to report Thursday...some tangible step forward in the Project. But considering the Life handed to us last week, I may not. And I'm going to learn how to be okay with that. Because Betsy has a lot to teach.
Women have always known how to deal with dragons hiding under beds or lurking in closets. We turn on the lights and reassure worried souls with love. We need to slay the dragons in our minds the same way.

Today, if you feel frightened or unsure about the future, pick up the double-edged sword of Light and Love. Always remember, it's not an adventure worth telling if there aren't any dragons. ~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I love you...don't breathe on me

Our Valentines Weekend

Sascha: down
Ari: down
Ally: coming down
Wendy: and she's still up, ladies and gentlemen

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So It Begins...


I walk downstairs at 8am with Ari plastered to my front. Having awakened at 6am to a hungry baby, I've already been up for two hours but it took all that time to prep the bottle, empty the dishwasher, have my morning cuddle with Ally and then transfer with Sascha so I could coddle a sick Ari for over an hour. This is the second time he's been sick this month and I've learned that the difference between a good stay-home day and a bad stay-home day in his mind is morning time with Mommy. Ah, the learnings of an emotional and sensitive child.

So anyway, back to that sigh. As I walked down the stairs I came into full view of the living room carpet...and the huge pile of kitty puke in the middle of it. Sigh. Our family has become quite familiar with "Bella throw up", as Ari calls it. He even likes to help me find the extra piles in the vomit trail, all the while exclaiming "yuck, gross". According to our vet, Bella may have irritable bowel disease...ergo, the cat vomit I clean up at least three times a week. After months of this, it's getting old.

I don't dare complain too much or Sascha will start in with his old mantra of "animal shelter animal shelter animal shelter" and since I have chosen the full-term responsibility of care for these two little animal souls, I really don't want to be hearing that. So I clean up the puke. In all fairness, Sascha handles litter box detail (unbelievably) so I really have no place being irritated with his mantra.

But that early morning throw up got me to thinking...I really need to just cleanse this place. I mean a full physical cleansing...which will, in effect, make way for the spiritual and emotional cleansing this home so desperately needs. People (and cats) have been ill, spirits have been low, piles have accumulated and chaos seems to be the order of the day. It is time.

And so I invite you along on this cleansing journey. I will go through this house, room by room, space by space and need by need. Restoring order, repairing brokenness and assisting the return of health and healing. Heck, I may even sage the place.

Yes, some of it will be mundane...there's only so much excitement involved with the sorting of outgrown clothes. But some of it will be transformative, if only just for me. It's my intention that I learn something along the way, clear the debris from my soul and make spiritual space for the projects to which I'm feeling called.

So check in every week to see what we've been up to...which piles have been eradicated; which closets cleared and the discoveries made. We may even find a way to heal our vomit comet that is Bella.

"If a home doesn't make sense, nothing does."
~ Henrietta Ripperger

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Over And Over Again

It was a loud drive home from our play date today. Ally, exhausted beyond words and constipated to boot, was screaming bloody murder from her car seat. Ari, exhausted beyond words and frustrated, his sensitive ears ringing with Ally's screams, was trying to tell me something but each time I asked him to speak louder he only softened his voice. Eventually he fell apart with a strangled sob of grief and despair.

That sound stopped me in my tracks.

Because I had experienced it myself. Over and over again.

But I'm an adult with almost 35 years to my credit. He has been on this earth not even three and a half years.

"Oh, Ari. Hon. Would you like to hold my hand?" I offered from the driver's seat. "Yes!" he gasped with desperation and sobbed as our arms reached across the chasm between our seats. I never do this anymore...hold his hand while I'm driving. It's something I haven't done for two years. But I could see he was desperate for a base to hold him down from his outward spiral and, for once, I could be his rock with only compassion in my heart. That doesn't happen very often now that he's a preschooler...usually it's frustration and exasperation tinged with just a hue of compassion.

As Ari quieted down and Ally fell asleep, I started thinking about that sob. When that desperate sound has passed my own lips, it was at times when my broken spirit pooled around my feet and I believed I just couldn't take one more step...times when I would rather die than try anymore. Death, however, doesn't entertain ridiculous invitations and I know that. So I keep on breathing and eventually learn how to take one more step. Over and over again. That's the base of experience a 34 year old holds. A three year old, however, can't fathom the fact that life will go on after this most wretched moment. For him, the world really is ending...even if it's only due to a loudmouth baby sister. And so he needs a hand to hold, a rock to anchor him to the earth.

Luckily, a hand and a hug (and maybe taking a break with Curious George) are usually all he needs to pull through these moments. The hard times are when I cause his heartache...when something I did or something I said or the way I said it makes his little lips clamp shut, his face turn red and his eyes well up...trying so hard to hold it inside until it slips out in a little whimper and then a little sob. I wasn't the cause of the sadness today. But tomorrow, I might be.

We try and we try and we try but, ultimately, we fail. And we break their hearts. Over and over again. And we tuck them into bed with a kiss and then climb into our own beds and cry and then get up again in the morning and try all over again.

But their grace and unbounded love save us. And they forgive us. Over and over again.