Friday, May 26, 2006

It's all in the perspective

I got nothing done yesterday.

After having people stay with us for a week (the previously mentioned Grandpa-of-the-digital-camera as well as Grandma, of course) I was all set to whip my house back into order. I had a list (as I am wont to make despite the acceptance of the unpredictable rhythms of my life) and it was a good one:

Dust and vacuum
Clean bathrooms
Cut out three dozen poster board stars for the American Girl Victory Crowns (to be made today at our Molly meeting)

I did get the first load of laundry started before the "getting nothing done" part of the day began.

You see, Anne had been invited to a movie and birthday party. The problem was, the movie chosen by the birthday girl was not one we would allow Anne to see. I had let the Birthday Party Mom know of our objections and that we'd simply drop Anne off at the party after the rest of them arrived home from the movie. This was going to provide me with an entire day for cleaning before I had to drive any child anywhere.

Then, Wednesday night, we were told that the movie had been switched to something more acceptable. Plans to drop Anne off at 3 p.m. were back on the schedule for the day.

In the meantime, Betsy had been angling for a little something fun out of this arrangement. I let her invite the Birthday Girl's little brother over for playtime during the movie and party. Obstacle: now that the movie had been switched, little brother could go along, and that's what he wanted to do.

So, after getting the laundry started, Birthday Party Mom and I talked again, and it was decided that Betsy could tag along to the movie. When I shared that happy news, she broke into a shaky smile, looking surprised and slightly alarmed. "Hmmm, that's a little odd," I thought, but went on to check my email (and no, that has nothing to do with not getting all my chores done) and who should arrive at my side in tears but Betsy?

It turns out that she was afraid to go to a movie without me. She's never done it before, and new things are sometimes hard for tender-hearted Betsy. So, instead of tackling the shower (and, sadly, I always use steel wool) I sat with Betsy and talked things over with her. We read an online review of the movie, talked about where she'd sit in the theater and that her sister would be there, about what to expect and how she's always felt comfortable playing at this friend's house, as well as other such soothing things.

Then, I embarked on a series of emails with Atticus: Should I go, too, and take Ramona? Would Ramona be ready to sit through an entire movie in a theater? Did Atticus want to come home and go with us (he being the kind of dad who loves to witness things such as a little one's first big screen experience)? Is all of this worth the extra $14 in admission price, or will Betsy be fine without me there?

I got the first load of laundry into the dryer and started a second one. Then, I directed Anne to get ready for the party. (The shower was then occupied, so of course I couldn't clean it.)

After a lovely, long phone conversation with my sister (which had nothing to do with not getting my chores done) I heard from Atticus, who had determined that Betsy would be fine, and should sit with her sister if she needed to, and that her sister should not deny her that kindness, even if it was her friend and her birthday party invitation.

We then had to make sure that Betsy was bathed and ready to go out. The gift still had to be wrapped, and -- amazingly -- I had to settle a couple of squabbles in the midst of these activities.

I also had to help Anne pack (it was a sleepover) and there were some tricky wardrobe choices to be made (sprinklers, hot weather and swimsuits were involved, and which shorts would make the best cover-up over her suit?)

By now it was lunch time and I was immensely tempted to tell the girls to make their own peanut butter sandwiches and eat alone while I vacuumed (if I can call that temptation ... to be "tempted to vacuum" is really an oxymoron.)

But, they said, "Will you read to us?" That was the end of the housework.

I looked at my three gems, miracles every one, and thought of our morning. In the fraction of a second before I said, "Yes, I'll read to you," the goodness of our family life and the events of the last 24 hours flashed through my still-cluttered brain.

It's because we are blessed to be such a close-knit family that things like scrutinizing movie choices, tears over being away from Mommy, and reading whenever (well, almost) they ask for it happen regularly. So, I read from our current Charlotte book and lunch -- rather than feeling frenzied -- was a welcome respite.

Still left to do: drop the girls off for the movie, run to the store with Ramona for cookies (for the above-mentioned American Girl club meeting) and milk, linger too long at the store because I said "yes" to Ramona when she requested a visit to the Barbie aisle, get home in time to give Ramona the promised "special Mommy time" while "her girls" were out (we played with her dollhouse) and then back to pick up the girls and have two extra kids come over for supper and playtime (part of Betsy's angling.)

While Betsy's friends were here, I got the three dozen stars cut out, the headbands made (though the sample-Miss-Victory-Crown is not yet assembled) and a note to myself written: Don't forget the cookies, glitter and glue.

It was after 8 p.m. when Atticus drove Betsy's friends home, and we still had to deal with lots of "I miss Anne!" comments from both Betsy and Ramona.

So. I didn't get anything done today.

Oh, yeah ... except two loads of laundry and those stars. And a lot of mothering.

My furniture is dusty, there are crumbs in the living room, clutter on the kitchen counter and the shower still needs to be cleaned, but my kids made it through another day, secure in the knowledge that I love them better than anything.

And that's the best thing to cross off a To-Do list.

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Anonymous said...

Just beautiful! I'm printing your post to put in my "things to read when I feel I can't get anything done because of all these children needing me" file.

Lisa D. said...

Great post, Karen. Today I will resolve not to let the words, "Just as soon as I finish what I'm doing!" pass my lips when my children want me for something. Instead, I will just be grateful that they want me.

Melissa Wiley said...

Karen, I love this post. I love the mother you are. Was it St. Benedict who said "All interruptions are from God?" It's absolutely humbling and inspiring to see how readily and wholeheartedly you *listen*.

K said...

Thank you for this post. It is very timely and will be treasured more than you know.

Karen Edmisten said...

"to see how readily and wholeheartedly you *listen*."
- - - - - - - - -
Thanks for the undeserved compliment ... I guess it was a GOOD day ... I should add to my to-do list "blog about a bad day .... " :-)

Also, I meant to link on the Charlotte reference, which I will go do right now ....

Karen Edmisten said...

Jennifer, Lisa and K.,
Thanks to you, too, for your very kind, if undeserved words!

Rebecca said...

Karen, What a great post...timed just when I needed to hear it! We are moving furniture around, switching bedrooms, etc. which makes the littles anxious, needy and they can get lost in the shuffle. Thanks for reminding me of what's important--to take the time when I'm busy and just be mom.

Amy said...

I needed to hear this today with my huge 3-day-weekend-to-do-list looming in front of me!

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks for the kind words, Becky and Amy. It's so easy to get lost in the details of the house, isn't it? Today we're just trying to keep our heads above water with the flu! No time to do anything BUT be mom! :-)

Alice Gunther said...

Thank you for this post, Karen. YOU are a gem.