Sunday Coffee

A few weeks ago I resolved to mark my third year of blogging (the anniversary of which is this coming week, I think?) by taking 30 minutes each day to write and by posting on the blog at least three times per week. I’ve mostly succeeded. I think I’ve written almost every day, though a couple were such blurs of activity that I’m pretty sure they were left off. I did the thrice-weekly posting for the first two weeks, but this week I’m likely only fitting in two.

Oh well! On we march. The whole point of that little promise I made to myself was to exercise my writing muscle, so to speak, and I’m doing that.

These Walls - Sunday Coffee - 1

Being the weekend and all, I have my mind on lazy mornings and delicious coffee, and I’m thinking about what I would say to you if we were sitting down together for coffee.

First

I think I would mention this post and how some people seem to have gotten the impression that I had lost my cool with my son and was therefore writing from a place of regret.

(Now imagine me laughing while looking a little embarrassed.)

Um… if you think that was me losing my cool, you are far too generous. I promise that I am capable of some truly outrageous meltdowns. Like, spittle and popping veins outrageous. Once I was so mad I even had to go outside to run laps across the backyard.

So that post? That was just me recognizing the opposing tugs a parent feels while administering a punishment. And being decently comfortable that (in that one particular situation) I’d dealt with it the right way.

Next

I’d remember that I never updated anyone on how my children behaved at Mass last Sunday. The verdict? I mostly got off easy. My second son turned out to still be too ill to be taken to church, so he stayed home with Daddy. As did the toddler, because… toddler. So I was left with the five-year-old and the baby. And it all went fine except for the two minutes in which the baby spat up all down her front and the boy exclaimed, “She exploded!”

Then

I’d probably complain about being really, really tired of having somebody in the house sick for, like, two months straight. Currently we’ve got two boys (hopefully!) wrapping up their colds. I’m praying that we enjoy at least a small period of good health before somebody else goes down.

I’m sure I’d complain about all this cool, rainy weather we’ve been having. (Seriously – where did May go? Haven’t we been having March for like three months now?)

I’d tell you that I’d failed, once again, to find lamps to replace the ones my boys destroyed ages ago. It turns out it’s not so easy to find lighting that is (1) sturdy enough to withstand being knocked off tables by little boys and (2) not so sturdy that it will seriously injure little boys while falling off tables.

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Finally

If you and I had time to discuss all the ideas we have for our homes and gardens, a la this post, I would report that I exercised some restraint by only planting tomatoes and herbs when I really wanted to go whole-hog and establish The Most Amazing Kitchen Garden Ever.

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I’d tell you that we really need some fresh paint around here. And that I’m itching to hang more things on the walls. (Any idea as to how to get your husband to take up a task without nagging him to do it?)

I might admit to making myself yet another schedule to try to get a handle on my life.

I’d say how we really just need to decide whether to get a playset and patio furniture, already.

And that Brennan and I are leaning toward putting on that kitchen addition one of these days, but that we also daydream about having This Old House do an entire home renovation for us. (Oh, the dreams that boring 30-somethings can come up with…)

By this point I’d have bored you to tears – and we’re caught up by now anyway, so I’ll sign off. Time to see what kind of Mass behavior my boys give us this time.

Enjoy your Sunday!

These Walls - Sunday Coffee

“Home to Me” Week One Round-up: 7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 37)

A week ago yesterday, I introduced a blog-hop called “Home to Me.” Over the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are writing on what/where/who meant home to them. So far seven women (including myself) have published posts on the subject, and let me tell you – they are just beautiful! I am so proud of how this little series is shaping up and I look forward to seeing what its second half holds in store.

I hope you’ll join me in revisiting the posts from week one and eagerly anticipating those in week two. (Please also stop over to Kelly’s to check out the rest of this week’s 7 Quick Takes.)

Seven Quick Takes Friday

—1—

Day One: That Time I Rang a Stranger’s Doorbell and Found Family (Part One) by yours truly

These Walls - That Time I Rang A Strangers Doorbell and Found Family Pt 1 - 1

The (first part of the) story about how I visited the rural German village from which one of my ancestors had come and ended up befriending a family distantly related to my own:

[O]ff the train, and off the platform I stepped into a pretty little village. I don’t remember seeing any people at all. I looked at my map and the street signs, got my bearings, and took off. I walked those three miles with a sense of wonder and a spring in my step: this was my homeland. (Well, one of them.) My ancestor might have walked these very roads more than two-hundred years before.

The landscape was beautiful – rolling green hills, fields, streams and woods – not unlike the central part of Maryland where my Hessian soldier ancestor ended up. I wondered whether the similarity helped him feel at home in America.

As my walk neared its end, I found myself up on a rise overlooking Oedelsheim. It took my breath away. Hundreds of red roofs sprawled outward (the village wasn’t as small as I’d assumed), a ribbon of blue river wound just beyond it, and gentle farmland and hills surrounded the lot.

I was home. For the first time since Johann Philip had been loaded onto a ship and sent across the Atlantic, one of our family was back in the place from which it had come.

—2—

Day Two: My Forever Home by Leslie of Life in Every Limb

Life in Every Limb

Leslie shares her experience of finding her truest home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Circumstances change and with them, addresses and family make-up – so for Leslie, her city is her forever home:

[T]o me, home has come to mean something other than a house.  When I think of home, I think of Knoxville, my hometown, where I have spent all but five years of my life, the place where I was married and where all my babies were born.  Whenever I return from a vacation, my heart feels a little lighter as soon as I cross the Tennessee line.  The road sign that reads Knoxville – 12 miles always lifts my spirits.  And probably the most welcoming sight in the world to me is the Knoxville skyline, with my own parish church at the very front, visible on the interstate as we drive through town.

My roots in this town are deep–my father’s people have lived in this area since the 1700s.  Even though my husband has only lived here 25 years, he has put down roots as well.  I may not know in what house we will be celebrating the holidays five or ten or twenty years from now, but I know the party will be in Knoxville, my forever home.

—3—

Day Three: Home to Me by Ashley of Narrative Heiress

Narrative Heiress

Ashley invites readers in with a cozy, warm post that paints a picture of home via a series of small scenes:

Home is comfort. Warm mugs of tea. Soft blankets for cuddling on the couch with the kids. Bowls of soup familiar. Cold winter nights, dark enveloping us early. Dim lights and soft music. Candle flickering, encouraging me to keep bright my own flame.

Home is loud.  Saturday family dance parties to Metallica (+orchestra) songs. Three small boys shooting invisible guns and roaring their lion jaws.  Paul stomping in to tackle & tickle & destroy. Music streaming through all the speakers: Taylor Swift singing us through pick up time.

Home is humble. Popcorn ceilings and blinds to be replaced—someday. Tiny fingerprints on the windows & a dining table with happy scars from lingering meals with loved ones. Our things made beautiful by our use of them. This is no museum home. This is the real thing. Wooden floors that know our dancing feet. Walls that listen in on our reading voices.  A counter that has held a thousand meals.

Home is intimate.  Vulnerability lays her head here with us. We are challenged & split open. Spilled milk. Long days. Whiny kids. Disappointing each other & saying sorry & trying again and again to love with our hands pouring coffee and setting the table. This family here–we know, we see each other & ourselves–this is our chance to come to harbor & drop anchor only to be shaken on shore just as we were rocked at sea, to get so close that we can’t help but understand more, know more, to see truth and set pain free.

—4—

Day Four: Home to Me… and to Our Children by Rita of Open Window

Open Window

Rita shares about how her oldest son, who is adopted, found his home in hers:

“Home is where the heart is,” goes the phrase. And it’s true. But for children who are adopted as toddlers, it isn’t as if you can easily explain that a strange, unfamiliar place is home.

When we met our sons as toddlers in China, everything was new and different. We were strangers to them. We spoke a language they had never heard, fed them unusual foods, and expected them to eat and play and sleep in a different place.

For the first two weeks—for each of our adoptions—we lived out of suitcases in hotel rooms…

Our older son stayed in two different hotel rooms in China and a hotel room in Chicago before we finally arrived home together at our house in Baltimore.

He had just turned 2 and, even after only two weeks of hearing English, he understood almost everything we said to him. But there was no way for us to explain to him that this had been our goal the whole time. This place, yet another unfamiliar building full of toys and food and beds, was our final destination.

This house, I wanted to tell him, was not just another set of rooms along the way.

This was special.

This was home

As the days and weeks went by, our little boy started to trust that this was our special place. And one night after our long daily commute together, I turned our car into the neighborhood and he called out with joy, “Home!”

My eyes filled with tears. Yes, we were home. Home to stay.

—5—

Day Five: Home to Me: A German Student Finds Home in a Foreign Land by Svenja, guest blogging at These Walls

These Walls - Svenja Zimmermann

Svenja tells about the home she found in the United States during a high school exchange program – a home based not on conventional definitions, but on love:

My American parents treated me as if I was their own daughter. They made no difference. They went to parents’ day at school to see how I was doing, they hugged me, they gave me way too many gifts for Christmas, they planned a surprise vacation to Niagara Falls, they cared for me when I had the flu. But most of all they made me feel loved. And I loved them. I love my American parents, I love my American sisters more than any other people that aren’t part of my ‘real’ family.

According to Merriam-Webster this place in the United Stated can’t really be my home. I am and was not a resident. It isn’t my place of origin. It is a house, yes. But does this fact make it my home? Surely not.

What is it then that makes it home to me? If I look at those three places I mentioned that are home to me, it is obvious that there is one common factor. And that is love. I love my parents unconditionally and they love me in return. I am their child. I love my husband more than anything in the world. It feels like we were made for each other. We can trust each other and rely on each other, we chose each other. Our children are my life. There is no love like a mother’s love for their children.

And then I love my American family. So much. This semester with them changed me, made me another person in a good way. And they made that possible, because they made me feel loved.

Of course Merriam-Webster’s definition isn’t wrong. But one vital aspect is missing and that is love. Just as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: “Where we love is home. Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”

—6—

Day Six: Home to Me by Anna of The Heart’s Overflow

The Heart's Overflow

Anna explores the many intangible things that go into making her house her home. “It’s more than that,” she reminds us:

What is home? It’s four walls and a ceiling. It’s the address your mail gets delivered to. It’s a place to hang your hat and lay your head at night.

But it’s more than that.

It’s the personal touches, the iconography, that make it not only a house, but a home. The paint colors, the wall art, the books in your book cases. These things don’t happen overnight; it takes time to make a house a home…

But it’s more than that.

Home is all the memories of things that happened here. This is the place we came home to after our honeymoon.  It’s where we brought our children home from the hospital. We’ve seen positive (and negative) pregnancy tests here, we’ve gotten grad school acceptance letters here, we’ve had string quartets rehearsals, baby showers, and New Year’s Eve parties here. This is where we plant our garden every spring and shovel mountains of snow every winter. Home is where life happens.

But it’s more than that…

More than anyone else, home is being with my husband. A relaxing morning drinking coffee together, or staying up way too late watching Netflix would be some of my favorite scenes of home. But even cleaning up the kitchen, or bouncing a fussy baby are more enjoyable when he’s around. Where ever I am, and whatever I’m doing, if I’m with him and our two babies, then I am home.

But even more than that.

Home is the little space allotted to me by God to, for a short time, bring heaven to earth. This is where we live our vocations, sowing peace, ministering love, cultivating life. Home is where we do that, until we are called to our eternal home.

—7—

Day Seven: Home to Me by Debbie of Saints 365

Saints 365

Debbie remembers her grandmother’s home, which was a life-long anchor for her. She mourns its loss along with that of her grandmother:

Life at Grandma’s house was like her love – stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.

I was well into my forties when she died, but her death rocked me as if I were a child. Reminders from well-meaning friends of the length and beauty of her life offered me little consolation. I missed her presence in my life: I missed her hugs, I missed her voice, I missed her meatballs and I missed the home that I considered one of the happiest places on earth.

A few months after her death I sat in my Spiritual Director’s office and cried my heart out to him. He patiently listened as I sobbed though my grief. When he finally spoke, he gently suggested that I was looking for my grandmother in all the wrong places. Instead of longing for her presence in the past, in the flesh, in her home – he proposed that I seek her instead where she was to be found: in the Lord, in the Spirit, in heaven. He asked me to pray for the grace to release her in this life, so that I might discover her in a new way.  Finally, he gave me this quote, which has sustained and consoled me ever since: “Those who die in grace go no further from us than God, and God is very near.”

I turned over that quote in my mind for many months. I have come to appreciate the truth in its words. I thought that what I missed the most about my Grandmother was the permanence of her home and all that represented to me. What I have discovered is that her home was just a dwelling for her love, and that remains alive, well and exactly as it always was: stable, steady, rock-solid and unchanging.

~~~

These posts are part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by yours truly. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers are sharing about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

These Walls - Home to Me

Home to Me: A German Student Finds Home in a Foreign Land

Today I’m thrilled to host a guest blogger whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years. Svenja Zimmermann was an exchange student living with family friends of ours in 1997, and she’s remained part of their family ever since. We’ve seen each other a handful of times over the subsequent years, including That Time I Rang a Stranger’s Doorbell and Found Family.

These Walls - Svenja ZimmermannSvenja is a 34-year-old wife, mother of three boys, and high school teacher (in German and English) on parental leave. She lives with her family in a small town near Hannover in northern Germany.

I hope you enjoy Svenja’s contribution to our “Home to Me” blog hop.

~~~

When I first thought about what home means to me I wondered what exactly the definition of home was in a dictionary and whether that captured my notion of home.

Some of the definitions the Merriam-Webster dictionary gives are: (1a) one’s place of residence, (1b) a house, (2) the social unit formed by a family living together, (3a) a familiar or usual setting, (3b) habitat, (4a) a place of origin, (4b) headquarters, (5) an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs.

To some extent, I thought, those definitions were right. Obviously number five. Whether the inhabitants of those establishments feel at home – we still call it that. Definitely number four! The place of origin will probably always be some kind of home to people. In my case number two is also correct. I live together with my husband and my three sons in our home, which leads me to number one, because it is a house. Our house.

So Merriam-Webster is right. All those definitions are definitions of home. But still, I am not really satisfied with them. Something is missing. The definitions are ‘lifeless’, unemotional. They don’t suffice.

So, what is home to me then? What is the determining factor? What would I write if I had to define home?

There are three places that are home to me.

Number one is easy. It is my parents’ house. The house my parents built and I moved to when I was three months old. I moved out when I started college in a different city (where, by the way, I never really felt at home). In this house I grew up. I learned to walk and talk, I went to kindergarten, I started elementary school, went on to high school. I found friends, I lost friends, I found new friends, had my first boyfriend (and some more).

Number two is also easy. It is my home. My and my husband’s house. We had it built the way we wanted it. We chose every bit, from the color of the roof to the floor tiles in the hallways, even the socket-outlets. We definitely love our home. Our house. We are raising our three children here, we enjoy spending time on the street chatting with neighbors. We are a family. A mom, a dad and three little boys, living in their house. What else could be more of a home than this?

But then there is a third place I call home. And it is not that I only call it home. Because it was my home for a period of time, I feel it is my home.

The first time I ‘came home’ was in March 1997. I was in 10th grade here in my German high school and went on an exchange to the United States. It was just three weeks, not far away from Washington D.C. with a day trip to New York City. How exciting! I was 15 years old at the time, about to be 16 on March 29th. I celebrated my 16th birthday in the U.S. Back then, long before the real globalization as we know it now, the U.S. was a country so totally different from mine. Of course everybody had an idea of what it would be like from movies and TV shows: Beverly Hills 90210. This was what it was going to be like in the U.S.

When I got there I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t quite like Beverly Hills, but it was still nice. After a long flight our group landed at Washington Dulles International Airport, where the exchange group waited to pick us up. My host sister and I sat next to each other on the bus and we chatted all the way back to school. I immediately liked her although she obviously was not a lot like me (on the outside). I liked tight jeans and make up. She was in her school uniform, not wearing any make up and definitely did not seem to care much for such things. But still it felt like we had known each other for a long time already. When we arrived at the school, her parents awaited us. They were so nice. They weren’t at all like my parents, but they seemed to honestly be happy to get to know me. They were so lovely and cute and I immediately felt very welcome and well taken care of.

Time flew and faster. Sooner than I expected, the exchange was over. I had had a great time at this family’s house. I had spent a lot of time with them: the parents and the two daughters. I hadn’t missed a thing, even though it was not like I had imagined it to be (Beverly Hills 90210) and it was not at all like my home in Germany. My parents were very liberal. I went to parties on the weekends, slept in ‘til noon. In the U.S. I didn’t go to parties. I didn’t sleep in as long. We went to church on Sundays, something I never did at home. Nevertheless, I liked it so much, I wanted to come back. For longer. And that summer I came back, for one whole semester. I came back home.

My American parents treated me as if I was their own daughter. They made no difference. They went to parents’ day at school to see how I was doing, they hugged me, they gave me way too many gifts for Christmas, they planned a surprise vacation to Niagara Falls, they cared for me when I had the flu. But most of all they made me feel loved. And I loved them. I love my American parents, I love my American sisters more than any other people that aren’t part of my ‘real’ family.

According to Merriam-Webster this place in the United Stated can’t really be my home. I am and was not a resident. It isn’t my place of origin. It is a house, yes. But does this fact make it my home? Surely not.

What is it then that makes it home to me? If I look at those three places I mentioned that are home to me, it is obvious that there is one common factor. And that is love. I love my parents unconditionally and they love me in return. I am their child. I love my husband more than anything in the world. It feels like we were made for each other. We can trust each other and rely on each other, we chose each other. Our children are my life. There is no love like a mother’s love for their children.

And then I love my American family. So much. This semester with them changed me, made me another person in a good way. And they made that possible, because they made me feel loved.

Of course Merriam-Webster’s definition isn’t wrong. But one vital aspect is missing and that is love. Just as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said:

Where we love is home.

Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

~~~

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie Walsh at These Walls. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

These Walls - Home to Me

That Time I Rang a Stranger’s Doorbell and Found Family (Part One)

Or… one of the times. I’ve actually done it twice.

As my best friend Catey says, “Only you would show up at random people’s houses in foreign villages and find out that you’re related to them!”

Both situations rank high among my favorite party stories of all time, but today you’re just getting the first one. It begins in the summer of 2000, when I was a fresh-faced (rising) senior in college, studying German at a Goethe Institut in lovely Prien am Chiemsee, Bavaria.

My maternal grandmother, who is the historian and genealogist of our family, was pressing me to visit the small German village from which one of my ancestors had come. He, a Hessian soldier named Johann Philip Fiege, was the great-great-great-(can’t remember how many ‘greats’)-grandfather of her husband, my grandfather.

Grandmom had discovered the name and general location of Johann’s home village in an old court record: The Hessian-soldier-turned-prisoner-of-war-turned-American had testified as a witness regarding some milling technology that he was familiar with from his home village of Oedelsheim, on the river Weser. (Obscure, right?)

That’s all we had to go on. I had no idea where this village was, other than that it was along the (long) Weser. And to be honest, I didn’t even recall where the Weser was. (WERMS, fellow German students, WERMS. All I knew was that the Weser was the first in the handy – literally – acronym of the five major rivers in Germany: Weser, Elbe, Rhein, Main, and… I forget.)

But I had some German friends! I had a few young German friends – Civis, for those of you who know what that means – who worked at my Institut. One of them helped me look up maps of the regions around the Weser so as to locate this random little place. (This was before the internet was what it is today. Obviously.) After what felt like forever, we finally found it: Oedelsheim looked like a pinprick. It was situated near the source of the river, in central Germany, about 45 minutes from the University city of Göttingen.

And I was in luck. (1) My grandmother so badly wanted me to visit Oedelsheim that she offered to buy this poor college student a train ticket to get there. (2) The German friend who had helped me locate the village was from a city not so far past it and he (Matthias) was about to head home for a weekend. He could accompany me part of the way. (3) I had another German friend, a girl I’d known when she was a high school exchange student living with friends of ours, who lived about an hour’s drive north of the place I sought. I could stay with her overnight.

(By the way, this friend, lovely Svenja, will guest post on my blog this coming Tuesday. Her post, like this one, will be part of my “Home to Me” blog hop. Svenja is still very much a German living in Germany, but she’ll write about the sense of home she found during her studies and visits in the United States.)

So it was set. One weekend I traveled with my Civi friend Matthias from Prien aaalll the way up to Hanover. There I met up with Svenja (and, ironically, the two American friends from my hometown with whom Svenja had lived in the U.S.) I stayed with one of her neighbors because Hotel Svenja was all booked up, and the four of us young ladies had a great time together. Early Sunday morning, I hopped on a train to head back down south. First stop: Göttingen.

When I arrived at the train station in Göttingen, I stowed my stuff, bought a local map, and walked up to the ticket counter with my finger on the Oedelsheim pinprick.

“I want to go here,” I said. In German.

(Allow me to note that this trip out of Bavaria was the first time I realized that – hey! – I could actually speak German! Bavarians are a proud people who tend to speak their strong Bavarian dialect – or at least a heavily-accented version of proper German – as a matter of course. So here was I, a month into my intensive studies and seven years into studying the language altogether, thinking that I couldn’t really speak German because I couldn’t make out what passersby were saying on the street. But all I needed to do was leave Bavaria! Up in central Germany, I was fine.)

Anyway. The woman working the ticket counter looked at me like I was crazy.

“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No, that’s in the middle of nowhere. And we don’t have a train line to get you there anyway.”
“Just get me as close as you can. I’ll figure it out.”
“The closest station is three miles away.” (Distance provided in miles for the convenience of my American readers.)
“That’s okay; I walk three miles all the time. I’ll just walk it.”
“You cannot walk from here to here.”
“Yes, I can.”

Eyebrows raised, she sold me the ticket and emphasized the last return train of the day. If I didn’t catch it, I would be stuck.

So I found the right platform and boarded the train. And my memory might well have exaggerated things for me, but that was a rustic train. In contrast to the shiny, comfy German trains that I’d ridden through the rest of my summer in Germany, this one looms large in my mind as having been outfitted with nothing but wooden benches. And no doors. (Again, probably a gross exaggeration, a trick of my mind.) I know for sure that when I arrived at the station to which I was bound… there was no station. There was simply a concrete platform with a bench. I’d had to tell the conductor where I wanted to get off so that they didn’t pass it by. Now I understood why the ticket agent had been so reluctant to send me here.

But off the train, and off the platform I stepped into a pretty little village. I don’t remember seeing any people at all. I looked at my map and the street signs, got my bearings, and took off. I walked those three miles with a sense of wonder and a spring in my step: this was my homeland. (Well, one of them.) My ancestor might have walked these very roads more than two-hundred years before.

The landscape was beautiful – rolling green hills, fields, streams and woods – not unlike the central part of Maryland where my Hessian soldier ancestor ended up. I wondered whether the similarity helped him feel at home in America.

As my walk neared its end, I found myself up on a rise overlooking Oedelsheim. It took my breath away. Hundreds of red roofs sprawled outward (the village wasn’t as small as I’d assumed), a ribbon of blue river wound just beyond it, and gentle farmland and hills surrounded the lot.

These Walls - That Time I Rang A Strangers Doorbell and Found Family Pt 1 - 1

I was home. For the first time since Johann Philip had been loaded onto a ship and sent across the Atlantic, one of our family was back in the place from which it had come.

This concludes Part One of my story. Now I’ve got to get dinner in the crock pot, breakfast on the table, and boys out the door to the dentist’s office. Please come back later today for Part Two.

~~~

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by yours truly. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

These Walls - Home to Me

These Walls - That Time I Rang a Stranger's Doorbell And Found Family Pt 1

Home to Me

Over the summer, a beautiful post by Laura Kelly Fanucci got me to thinking about the concept of “home.” She writes:

Right now I am home.

Sitting in the house that we own. Where we are raising our children. Where mail arrives daily bearing my name. Where we welcome family and entertain friends. Where I pull weeds and paint walls. Where my car pulls into the driveway and my shoes slip off in the doorway.

And I am writing about going home. Which is not here.

“Home” is something I’ve spent much of my life thinking about: Growing up in a state where my family has been for hundreds of years (and so having a strong sense of place), but in a part of the state where I had no family (and so feeling disconnected from that place). Moving out of the home in which I was raised. Watching the land around my family’s homes sprout housing developments. Trying to find something to call home as a young adult, when I had no immediate family to bind me to the communities in which Iived. Building a sense of home with my husband and then my children. Working to feel like my physical, legal home is one on an emotional level too.

(Overthink things much, Julie?)

So I wrote my own post on home, trying to process it all. When I shared it, I found that the topic resonated with people. Friends and readers had had similar experiences – or different experiences, but similar struggles in coming to terms with what “home” meant in their lives. A couple of friends even suggested that they would like to share their own stories.

I stewed on that thought, wondering how I could encourage others to share their stories of home – where they’ve found it, how they’ve sought it, or whatever else feels meaningful to them on the subject. A couple of months later, chatting with some connections I’ve made through blogging, I settled on the idea of a blog hop. That is, of a series that is shared by a number of bloggers, each of whom contributes one post on her own blog.

So that’s what we’re doing. Now. This here post is the introduction to the blog hop, which we’re calling “Home to Me.” During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 (tomorrow!) through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them.

They include women who have moved from home to home every couple of years and those who have said final goodbyes to homes in which they’ve spent their whole childhoods. One woman is actually raising her own children in the home in which she was raised. Some are figuring out how to raise their families in proximity to their hometowns, some far from them. One watched in wonder as her adopted children found home with her. A German friend of mine will write about the sense of home she found here in the United States while a foreign exchange student. I, in turn, will write about the sense of home I found in the small German village from which one of my ancestors came some two hundred years ago.

“Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

These Walls - Home to Me

I Want It All

I want to plant a garden.

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I want to grow my own tomatoes and squash, cucumbers and beans. I want to see pretty little rows of lettuce and carrots sprouting up out of the ground. I want a garden for herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, mint, lavender. I want to plant blueberry bushes and strawberries; I want to pick my own blackberries for my homemade berry tart.

I want a cutting garden, too. I want to plant more hydrangeas and roses. I want to help my lilacs fare better than they have in the past couple of years. I want enough flowers to adorn my mantles, tables, and window sills in the warm-weather months.

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I want to keep my home always clean and comfortable and welcoming.

I want to cook everything from scratch. I want to use fresh, healthy ingredients. I want to learn how to bake bread. I want to try interesting recipes. I want to teach my boys to try new things and I want to reach my husband’s heart through his stomach.

I want to be always hospitable.

I want to invite others – families, couples, individuals – over to dinner on a regular basis. I want to show them that small kindness and I want to enjoy their good company. I want partners for the occasional game of cards. I want my boys to hear others’ stories and to tell our guests their own.

I want to throw holiday parties and birthday parties and just-because parties, and to be well-enough organized to experience more joy from them than I do stress.

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I want to visit the ill and the elderly. I want to bring meals and homemade baked goods, to mail care packages and hand-written letters.

I want to involve myself in our school and town and parish communities. I want to get to know people, to help them, and to feel comfortable asking for help myself.

I want to get my boys involved too – maybe in 4-H or Boy Scouts or sports or music lessons, maybe in some combination thereof.

I want to spend one-on-one time with each of my children, reading to them, teaching them, being creative with them. I want to listen to them and answer their questions.

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I want to write.

Dare I say, I want to be a writer? I want to write essays and articles, tributes and love notes. I want to reach people. I want to sit in the quiet and make sense of my thoughts through my fingers, tapping out words that slowly fill a blank screen.

I want to use my mind.

I want to organize events and lead efforts. I want to advocate and encourage. I want to speak in public. I want to discuss and persuade and really listen. I want to subscribe to brainy periodicals and sit in a dimly-lit corner to read book after book.

I want to pray.

I want to find a way to sit quietly and think on God, not on the million-and-one other things that constantly flit in and out of my mind. I want to prioritize that relationship. I want to nurture it.

I want to teach my boys to do the same. I want to raise them to be more familiar with the treasures and trappings of our Faith than I have been.

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My last attempt at a garden: Six tomato plants put in just before I developed a pregnancy aversion to the things.

And this – everything above – these are just the things I think are reasonable to want from the kind of life I’m living. These are the ones that fit into my stay-at-home-mom-to-several-littles paradigm.

If I could step outside of those bounds, I’d want to be a singer or an actress. I’d want to work in the halls of Congress or the United Nations or in Brussels or Rome. I’d want to be a journalist or a historian or a conflict negotiator or an event planner or an interior decorator, like my mom. I’d want to spend my spare time attending cultural events and visiting museums and walking historic cities. I’d want to travel.

I’d want it all.

I do want it all.

I just know that in this big world, with all these possibilities to choose from – all isn’t an option.

So I choose, and I try to remember to be happy with my choices. It’s usually easy enough for me to be happy with my SAHM over career woman choice. It was easy for me to be happy with my (previous) public policy over the arts choice. I was mostly reconciled to the domestic over international affairs choice.

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But those things above – the ones that belong to my SAHM paradigm – they’re so much harder for me to agree to decide between. I resist choosing. I mourn my lack of a garden and the infrequency with which we have guests to dinner. I still don’t know how to make bread. (Really know – know by the feel of the dough in your hands know.) I approach parties and community commitments with a combination of excitement and dread. I blog infrequently. I rarely read books. My house is far from clean.

I don’t know how to make it all work, because again – all isn’t an option.

There are only 24 hours in a day. There is only so much activity (and alternately, neglect) that small children can take. I only have so much energy.

I’m trying to remember this. I’m trying not to mourn my nonexistent garden or my paltry efforts at hospitality. I’m trying to remember the home cooking that I do do, the stories that we read, the Halloween costumes that are sprawled, mid-assembly, all over our dining room table. (Monsters – all three are monsters this year.) I’m trying to remember that while my blog posts are infrequent, sometimes people say they’re touched by them. I’m trying to not mind the mess.

I want it all – and somehow, sometimes that makes me feel better about not getting it. When my “want” list includes desires as diverse as folk singing, international conflict negotiation, and tomatoes – well then, I feel more blessed to have such a diversity of interests than I do frustrated to not be able to achieve them all. (Pinterest/blog reading got you down because of the abundance of fall tablescapes? No worries! You’ll never achieve Broadway success either. And that’s okay.)

I suppose the key is to choose the few wants in your paradigm that seem most elemental to your peace, your happiness, your sanity. And to indulge in your other desires with some scheming, maybe, or with some wistful dreaming – but with no guilt.

Because though we may want it all, all simply isn’t an option. And that’s okay.

These Walls - I Want It All

Seeking Home

Laura Kelly Fanucci recently wrote a beautiful post on the concept of going home and the question of where home is: Is it where you were raised? Where you hang your hat? Is it, ultimately, where you hope to rest when your days are done?

Right now I am home.

Sitting in the house that we own. Where we are raising our children. Where mail arrives daily bearing my name. Where we welcome family and entertain friends. Where I pull weeds and paint walls. Where my car pulls into the driveway and my shoes slip off in the doorway.

And I am writing about going home. Which is not here.

(Go to Laura’s blog, Mothering Spirit, for reliably beautiful writing. Every time I stop there, I feel as if I’m opening a book of poetry.)

I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of home.

There is, of course, the home in which I was raised. My parents moved away from it a couple of years after I graduated from college. The change was hard for me to take and I was kind of bratty about it: Once when my mother asked whether I’d be coming home (to their new house) for the weekend, I sniffed that I’d be going to visit my parents – not home.

Home is where the parents are, Mom retorted.

During my single twenties I referred to a series of apartments as “home,” though none of them felt like it. Even my first house with my husband didn’t feel much like home: He’d bought it long before we met and it was nothing like what I would have chosen.

When we moved into this house a few years ago, I knew that it was our real, solid opportunity to build something that would be a home to our family for years to come – possibly for the rest of our lives. So surely there should have been a light switch or something – a switch that would flip on the feeling of home? Right?

This house contains our things and ourselves and our goals and even our dust, but I think it will take some years before it truly feels like home to me. More than ten years after my parents moved, it’s still our old house on Paradise Road that creeps its way into my dreams.

But through all my years – even those before Paradise Road – there’s been another place that feels most like home. It’s at once vague and particular. In the broadest sense, it’s Maryland. The Maryland of rolling hills and gauzy landscapes, of roadsides bordered with trees so draped with vines they seem like jungle, of farms that look a little rough around the edges, messy from long grass and wildflowers.

I crest a hill and catch my breath at glimpses of that Maryland – my version of it, which leaves off the urban and the flat and even the mountainous. For that’s the one that means home to me.

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More particularly, that version of home is embodied in my grandparents’ place. It used to fit the bill perfectly: a farm with a stream and clumps of forest and an overgrown back field, a barn that smelled dusty and sweet – hay sweet, old manure sweet. But since the end of my college days, this place, too, has become removed from that golden image of home. My grandparents are still there, but the farm has been developed. We enjoy the most important elements of that home – family and love and time spent together – but the fields are gone, the barn is gone, the cattle are gone, and so the feeling is different.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up to what we still call “The Farm” via a road I don’t usually take. At first it felt so familiar, so like what I knew growing up. But as I neared that home, the one most dear to me, I saw trees growing where cattle once grazed. I saw my grandparents’ fields dotted with huge houses plopped here and there, spiting the natural curve of the land. I saw nearby hills marked not by tree lines, but by rooftops.

I sighed. It’s so hard to seek a home that can no longer be found.

There was a time when my sigh would have turned into a grumble, a growl of resentment. But just as this place has grown up, so have I. The new roads and traffic lights and neighborhoods and shopping centers may signal a loss to me, but to many others, they signal promise.

So it goes. Things change. Places change. People change.

It’s better to focus on the family and the love and the time spent together. And to accept that maybe promise is spread around to more than the newcomers – that maybe my future depends more on the new people than on the old fields.

I return home – to this home, the home of my husband and our boys and our dust. It’s a beautiful place. It’s full of the tradition and detail and imperfection and aged wood I long for. It’s sheltered by one of the loveliest old trees I’ve seen and it’s bordered by fields that remind me of those I used to gaze at through my bedroom window, chin propped on my arms in the dark, putting off sleep a little longer.

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I suppose I’ll know my feeling of home has caught up with reality when I dream of an 1860’s Victorian rather than a 1970’s rancher. Or maybe when I return from a trip and catch my breath as I mount our long driveway. Or perhaps it will be when I approach my grandparents’ neighborhood and forget to think of it as a farm.

Until then, I’m just so grateful to be here in this beautiful place, where I’ll surely someday find my home.

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Working With My Weakness, Part Two

On Monday, I fessed up to a week’s worth of mommy meltdowns. I’d shouted, I’d sought solace in the liquor cabinet (not much – I promise), I’d run away from my family, waving my arms in the air while making what my boys would likely describe as monster noises.

I was a real gem to be around, I’m telling you.

In the post, I attributed the meltdowns to my easily overstimulated/overwhelmed/distracted self. I said that I’d been failing to account for my weaknesses – parts of me that I know are there, but which I’ve tended to wish away rather than face head-on.

Since then, I’ve received welcome commiseration from fellow moms-to-littles, who say they share my struggles. And I’ve received words of comfort from more experienced moms, who remember what it felt like to be overwhelmed when they too were in these trenches.

But the best message came from my lovely sister-in-law, who posted the following video to my Facebook page:

Kid President! Who doesn’t love him?! (Thank you, Lisa, for the boost. I promise to do something fun with the boys in your honor.)

More fun than this.

More fun than this.

In Monday’s post, I also promised a follow-up. It was supposed to be “tomorrow,” which was foolish of me to say, considering I was to be out of the house for most of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday (and I was in the middle of a miserable sort of cold). Mea culpa. Let’s just chalk this up to yet another of my weaknesses: a terrible sense of time.

Which brings me back to the follow-up post. This post. The remainder of this post is addressed to those of you who, like me, do NOT have it all together. It will be of no use to the well-organized, the efficient, the minimalist, the unflappable.

This post is for those who struggle with sensory overload, distraction, and a general inability to deal with more than one thing at a time. It’s for those of you who want to find a better way, but who keep finding your counters covered with clutter and your trash cans overflowing. It’s for those of you who only seem to remember important tasks while you shower and who never seem to be able to locate the right combination of shoes and socks to get your children out the door on time.

I’m on a journey and I want you to walk it with me.

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That is, I don’t have this thing figured out. I’ve just thought about it (quite a lot), and I’ve asked myself some questions that you might consider asking yourself.

On a few counts, I feel like I’ve found solutions that work well for me. On others, I’m making progress. But there are a fair number of challenges that I continue to stew on, having not yet come up with good enough plans for addressing them. I’m working on it.

All in all, I suggest four steps for figuring out how to work with our weaknesses:

1. Go back and watch that Kid President video again.

No, seriously – take the opportunity to smile (and cry?) and remember that your children love you, distracted/disorganized brain and all. Make a mental note to be silly with them, to dance in the kitchen or sing in the driveway – or go do it right now! Allow it to give you some perspective on this whole thing.

2. Think about your own particular situation in great detail.

What are your triggers? Which small things contribute to your stress? Which parts of your home or your schedule trip you up? How do you use your physical space? Are your rooms and things arranged in such a way that they help or hinder your peace? How do your days and your weeks tend to proceed? Are you a morning person or a night person? How do you feel at different times of day? How much solitude do you need? Which of your family’s schedules – work, school, etc. are non-negotiable and which can be adjusted? Do you have a hard time remembering things? When do important ideas pop into your head?

3. Identify some potential solutions and try them out – but not all at once.

There’s no use in thinking you can devise a perfect system, let alone implement it in one fell swoop. So start small. Can you make a tiny tweak that will address one particular trigger? Go for it. Think you have a strategy for addressing a bigger issue? Try it out. But don’t bite off more than you can chew: you don’t want to feel like giving up because your plans prove to be too much for you. Small successes are still successes.

5. Adjust, add, and adjust some more. (Forever and ever, Amen.)

If a plan isn’t working out quite right, make an adjustment. When you’ve settled on one good solution, tackle another problem. When circumstances change, adjust your strategies along with them.

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As far as I’m concerned, those four (well, maybe just the last three) are probably the most effective steps to making useful changes in your life: Think. Solve. Adjust.

How simple is that?

As I’ve been going about all this thinking and solving and adjusting, I’ve landed on several strategies that I’ve come to realize are essential to me. And who knows – maybe you’ll find them useful too. So here they are, along with some particular examples of what I’m doing, or what I need to do.

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Be strategic.

We have a large home. Inevitably, when we’re getting ready to rush out the door, or while I’m changing a dirty diaper, or as I’m juggling a half-dozen tasks at once in the kitchen – I realize we’re missing something. No one has socks. Shoes have gone missing. Diapers and wipes have not been replenished. The box of Kleenex is empty.

These are each small things – almost insignificant. But when they happen right in the middle of the crazy/loud/demanding hub-bub of caring for home and children, they can become the very straw that breaks the camel’s back. So as much as possible, I try to anticipate these small stumbling blocks and be strategic about avoiding them.

Now, don’t get me wrong – my house is pretty much a wreck right now – so it’s not like I do any of the below perfectly. I just try to do them well enough to prevent me from losing my mind.

The boys’ shoes are kept in a basket by the back door. Most of mine and Brennan’s sit lined-up right next to it. Their socks (as well as their underwear and pajamas, because we dress the boys for bedtime downstairs) are kept in a changing table located in the family room. (It is way easier to hop over to the family room for last-minute socks than to run all the way upstairs.)

We also keep lots of spare diapers and many, many packages of wipes in the changing tables. I keep some in my purse and more in a little back-pack, ready to grab for hours-long trips out of the house. We keep a couple boxes of Kleenex just out of sight so we don’t resort to swiping from the napkin holder until we make the next trek into the Great Upstairs.

I keep my car keys and sunglasses in the same place every day. I keep a grocery list on the fridge. I keep my drawers and cabinets orderly – all so that when I’m in a rush, I can find what I need quickly and easily.

I even keep (and this might be the idea I’m most proud of) a notepad on the master bathroom’s counter. Because wouldn’t you know it, I tend to do my best thinking and remembering while I’m brushing my teeth or taking a shower.

These are all piddly little things – but they’re real, effective solutions to problems that used to trip me up on a regular basis.

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Keep to a weekly rhythm.

I’ve known for a long time that I have a laundry problem. And I’ve known for a long time that in order to make that chore less intimidating, I needed to do a little laundry each day. But it’s only been a couple of months since I’ve (finally!) landed on a strategy that works for me.

On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I do at least one, preferably two loads of laundry per day. If I’ve got my act together, the full baskets are set in the hallway the night before and the first load goes into the washer before I’ve even gotten the baby out of his crib.

But if I don’t have my act together, it’s not such a big deal, because Wednesdays and Saturdays are for sorting and catching up.

I plan to establish a similar schedule for cleaning our home, but I’m not there yet. (Mostly because the rooms are currently too messy to clean. Crazy, right? See below.) When I do come up with a schedule, I’m going to aim for the same rhythm: schedule work for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; reserve Wednesdays and Saturdays for catching up. Which brings us to…

Build in opportunities for catching up.

In addition to my can’t-handle-stimulation and shuts-down-easily weaknesses, I’m also a perfectionist. So a huge stumbling block for me is that when I don’t get something quite right, or when work starts to stack up faster than I can get through it, I tend to shut down and just refuse to do anything more. This tendency has been the death knell of pretty much every schedule I ever set up in the past.

But now!

Now, I have finally hit upon the realization (HOW could this have taken me so long?!) that I need to anticipate that particular stumbling block and build its solution into my schedule. That is, catch-ups.

So far, it’s working like a charm. No one week has looked “perfect” on the laundry front, yet in the months since I began my 4 Days On / 2 Days To Catch Up schedule, the chore hasn’t once stressed me out. It’s felt consistently manageable, and (wonder of wonders) we’ve consistently had enough clean (even folded!) clothes to wear.

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He’s unimpressed.

Reserve the right to reset.

A major problem in our household (which is also attributable to the perfectionism thing) is the glut of deep-cleaning/organizing projects awaiting my attention.

I love the idea of doing frequent touch-ups so that deep cleans are unnecessary. But that requires you to actually start from clean. We’re far from there. (Maybe some folks know how to chip away at a cleaning project bit by bit, but this perfectionist’s instinct tells her to go big or go home.)

In the course of my daily life, though, I generally don’t have time to go big. Most days, it’s all I can do to keep up with the feeding/changing/cleaning that is absolutely necessary; cleaning my bathroom tub feels like a luxury.

But do you know what’s recently occurred to me? The concept of a “reset.” Next week, I’m hiring someone to watch the boys for several hours so I can “hit reset” on some cleaning/organizing projects that have been sitting around for too long.

I reserve the right to do so again – and again and again. If I can’t get a project done in the course of my everyday life, then clearly I need to step away from my everyday responsibilities to get through it. And if I have to hire someone to take those over for me for a few hours while I work, so be it.

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Set aside time for the little things.

Here’s a place where I have an idea of what I need to do, but I haven’t yet properly implemented it.

My most obvious problem (and I know I should be loathe to admit this – look away, Mom!) is our overflowing trash cans upstairs. I enter our bathroom at night to get ready for bed, and there it is: a trashcan overflowing with Kleenex and dental floss. But I’m too tired to deal with it, so I don’t. In the morning, I’m rushing to do just what I have to do, so the trashcan gets bypassed again. Then I may not return to the space until that night, so the cycle is repeated.

I know what I need to do. I need to set a particular time to walk through the house and take care of the little things: empty the trashcans, replenish the changing tables with more diapering supplies, make the boys’ beds, wipe down the counters, tidy up a bit. Not doing these little things stresses me out, yet I fail to make time for them.

I tried the walk-through thing for a short while and I loved its results (I even enjoyed the work), but it didn’t last long – I think because I chose the wrong time of day. I keep meaning to try again at another time and see if it sticks.

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Protect the time for yourself.

I think this one may be the hardest. It’s certainly the one I’m worst at.

I have a pretty good idea of how I should structure my day so as to best secure my health and my peace: I should get up early. I should take a few quiet breaks during the day (and a solid, several-hour break once or twice a week). I should get our family through dinner at a reasonable time. Each evening while my husband puts the boys to bed, I should head up to our room to unwind and ready myself for the next day. I should get to bed at a decent time and get a good night’s sleep.

But it pretty much never goes this way. I tend to stay up too late, so I get up too late. I run behind on all the day’s major events and by the time I’m done with our (also late) dinner, all I want to do is sit still in front of my computer. So I stay up too late again and the cycle continues.

I need to make a better effort to change this.

But I also need to (and I think this was mostly the culprit behind last week’s meltdowns) focus on my needs for solitude and space during the day. Pretty much anything I do that requires thought (since I’m mostly incapable of focused thinking when I’m surrounded by my children) has to be done at night, when the boys are in bed. But then, not only can I barely keep my eyes open, but I feed that unhealthy cycle of staying up too late/getting up too late/etc. And if I try to fit in such things during the day when the boys are up, things tend to go badly. (See last week’s meltdowns for Exhibits A through C.)

So last weekend after the meltdowns, I talked to my husband and we agreed that I’d try to hire a mother’s helper this summer. Nothing is settled yet, but I’m hoping to get someone here one or two mornings a week to take charge of the boys and give me some (quiet!) time in which to think, write, and re-charge.

I really think it will help. I really think all of these strategies will help. I just need to keep working on them. I need to keep adding and adjusting and adding some more.

Forever and ever, Amen.

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One Hot Mess

Like a bunch of other folks, I suspect (or maybe I’m just the last one to the party – sorry, Blythe), I was introduced to Blythe Fike and her very lovely/funny blog “The Fike Life” last week when Grace recommended her and she was featured in this incredible video.

From what I’ve had a chance to read through/view so far, I’m loving her. Because of how lovely/funny/real/smart she seems, but also, I have to admit, because she strongly reminds me of one of my dearest, most lovely of friends, whom I rarely get to see. (Oh Becky, my Becky? Check out the video. Let me know what you think.)

Anyway. Blythe has just started a link-up, encouraging folks to lay bare some of the most real, usually-not-for-public-consumption scenes in their homes. And against what would surely be my mother’s advice, I thought I’d join in. So here it is, my “One Hot Mess.”

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This is our second floor landing. I had many, many “hot mess” options to choose from, I assure you. I went with this one because it seems to taunt me more than the others do – probably because it’s been sitting there so long. For months. More months than I care to count.

If you look around the image, you’ll see a bunch of things that have been waiting to be returned to Home Goods for… far too long. (Up to 18 months. Cringe. I probably can’t even return them now anyway, can I?)

You’ll also see a jumble of Christmas decorations, which are sitting there because they’ve yet to be packed into their bins. Which are also sitting there.

We’ve also got a bag of give-away clothes, some dry-cleaning, some of my husband’s tools (no idea why), two baskets of miscellaneous papers, and some mostly-empty boxes and bags leftover from my mother-in-law’s move. I doubt she even realizes they’re there.

In the background, we peek into the nursery/laundry room/craft room/office, where there are piles of unfolded clean laundry and random bags and bins of stuff.

Just outside the frame, I’ve got baskets of laundry, a box of my mother-in-law’s cleaning supplies, and eight canvas bins of stationary and office supplies. (Eight. Yes, I know. I’m ridiculous.) I’ve also still got the lovely collection of items featured in this photo from last week, which are sitting there for no other reason than I just haven’t carried them downstairs yet.

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Gosh, this is tedious, isn’t it? Oh, well. I offer it to those of you who have ever handed me a compliment on my home. Thank you for your kindness. And rest assured that our space here is very far from perfect. So, so much lurks just outside the frame.

Jump on over to Blythe’s to read her thoughts behind the “One Hot Mess” link-up and to get a look at other folks’ hot messes too. Enjoy!

Twenty-Three

In the interest of not completely neglecting my blog during this busy season of preparing our home for two new additions (not twins – just one baby and one mother-in-law), plus the actual welcoming of the mother-in-law and the ongoing prep for the new baby, I thought I should at least do a little catch-up post. But all I can muster is a list, so that’s what you get – a random collection of 23 goings-on, thoughts, and questions from the past week or so:

1)  We’ve been working very hard here – harder than we’ve worked since we moved into this house a year-and-a-half ago. May this (please) be our last push of purging and organizing and moving furniture for some time. (For years. Plural.)

2)  Everyone is very, very tired.

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3)  Pregnancy insomnia is one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things ever.

4)  On Saturday, a few of my lovely girlfriends took me to a lovely lunch to celebrate the impending arrival of baby boy #3. I felt just about giddy to be getting out of the house on a beautiful, spring-like day to hang out with my friends and eat delicious, wood-fire pizza. Mmmm… Thank you, ladies!

5)  There was absolutely nothing spring-like about yesterday, however. It snowed for something like ten hours straight. On March 25th. Will this winter never end?

6)  Change is hard. Or, at least it is for me. Every first day of school, every move, every new job, every new phase of life, every new child – every big change, no matter how wonderful – has been difficult for me to process. I know this about myself and yet I’m always somewhat taken aback when a round of change triggers its inevitable, big, emotional, revelatory moment (which necessarily involves tears). This round’s moment came to me on Sunday afternoon in that most glamorous of places: the driver’s seat of my minivan in the middle of the Safeway parking lot. Boo-hoo.

7)  In the scramble to get preparations wrapped up before Brennan’s mother’s arrival on Sunday evening – and the stress, and the exhaustion, and the pregnancy-related discomfort, I didn’t get to mass this weekend. I hate that. There’s no feeling of Catholic guilt quite like that of missing mass. Beyond the guilt-driven regret, though, I feel like I suffer a loss each time I miss Sunday mass. (Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.) Missing mass makes me realize how much I depend on it. Whether or not the little ones (or my own distracted brain) have let me pay attention to the readings, whether or not I’ve been wrestling a jumble of little arms and legs, whether or not I’ve been stressed out or agitated, the mass feeds me. Without it, I feel like I go into my week empty-handed. Missing this Sunday’s mass certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go into this week of welcoming-the-mother-in-law and maybe-giving-birth.

8)  All that said, Hilde’s move into our home went just about as smoothly as it could have. She’s got quite a way to go to get things unpacked, but she’s safely here and we’re all getting acquainted with one another.

9)  Just about overnight, I have gone from feeling good-but-tired to feeling very uncomfortable and full-of-baby. I feel like this baby is coming soon – like, really soon. But what do I know?

10)  I had my weekly ob appointment (and sono) this morning and all went well. My doctor offered to go ahead and schedule my induction for 39 weeks on the dot, which is… next Friday! As long as the hospital’s got room for me, it looks like I should be having this baby by the 4th!

11)  I still think I’ll go before then, though. My discomfort level has been prompting many a game of “Is Julie in labor?” The answer so far has, of course, been “no” – but I’m making good progress on the dilation front, so… it could happen!

12)  Last week I bought the boys a copy of Frozen to occupy them after the baby is born. Yesterday afternoon I totally cracked and popped that sucker into the DVD player. I may regret it later, but at the moment I was glad to have bought myself precisely 108 minutes of quiet time in which to (finally) pack my hospital bag and (too soon) fret about whether I’m going into labor.

13)  Instead, I started writing this post. Priorities.

14)  Note: when you’re 8.5 months pregnant and threatening to go into labor at any minute, you should probably give your husband a little warning before venturing out at 6pm to give your mother-in-law a tour of her new town. Because when he arrives home from work to find no minivan, wife, boys, or mother on the premises, he’s likely to panic. Just a little.

15)  Another note: eating dinner at 5pm is waaayyy nicer than eating dinner at 9pm. I mean, it gives you actual free time in the evenings that doesn’t involve falling asleep on the sofa.

16)  I’ve got a little poll for the mamas out there: While in the hospital after having a baby, do you (a) change into your own clothes or (b) wear the hospital gown provided to you? My best friend and I were having a conversation about this yesterday. On the one hand, we’ve seen pictures of ladies in real clothes in hospital beds and all the cool mommy bloggers seem to dish out great advice on the comfiest clothes to pack in your overnight bag. But we, ahem, don’t understand the logistics of such a move. Real clothes seem awfully inconvenient for all the checking and prodding and poking everybody seems to want to do to you, like, every 20 minutes. And then there’s the not-wanting-to-ruin-our-clothes thing. Are we alone in going the practical, dowdy route or are there more mamas in our camp?

17)  One more important question: Is gorging oneself on delicious, home-made (but not by me) bar cookies a sign of imminent labor?

18)  We really enjoyed the brief visit from Brennan’s sister and uncle, who drove Hilde here from Minnesota. The boys especially enjoyed their aunt and uncle and were beautifully, pathetically disappointed to learn yesterday morning that they’d left before dawn. It was so heart-breaking/cute.

19)  I had to carry my two-year-old (under my arm – just about the only way the belly will allow) out of his big brother’s preschool classroom yesterday, literally kicking and screaming, because he didn’t want to leave. It was also heart-breaking/cute.

20)  Last week my three-year-old said two particularly cute things before heading to school. One morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, “Today is my wucky day!” Me: “Why is today your lucky day?” Him: “Because I get to go to school today!” His teacher loved that one.

21)  Another morning, on the drive into school, he said, “I’m going to have so much fun at school today! I’m going to be happy and be nice and behave…” Then, to his little brother, he said, “I pwomise not to do bad sings to you anymore. I won’t kick you or hit you ever, ever, ever, ever again. Okay? Okay? Okay?” Finally, his brother gave the obligatory reply: “Otay.”

22)  Big brother’s “pwomise” didn’t last long.

23)  Fortunately, the little one’s tough. Fierce, we call him. He can take it.

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