Monday, August 31, 2009

No desk, no brain

I have no desk at the moment. In a pole barn that is about 50 yards from the house sits my desk. It is disassembled; the metal legs lean precariously and the top lays flat on a hopefully dry pallet. One good thing is that even if these things are not far enough from the small leak in the roof, they will still be undamaged. The sand floor in the barn does not matter to a couple of weighty, metal legs and a butcher block desk top. The desk is rather narrow front to back- maybe 24 inches, but it's 4 feet wide from side to side. It feels rather capacious when it's tidy, and never quite big enough when it's not.

Why am I so fixated on this very practical, rather uninteresting object? It's simple really. It seems my planning ability was disassembled two months ago with my desk. I have discovered I need my curriculum books to be on an open flat surface for my brain to weave all the threads together that make our school days. I have tried a couple of desperate things to bring this about without reassembling my desk. I have created difficult bookshelves on paint cans and boards in the bottom of my closet so that I might easily gaze at all books school related. I have spread the year's books carefully across my bedroom floor and made wild, random notes on seven different pieces of paper. I've tried a new recording system for my curriculum ideas. Tonight, I captured the dining room table in a bloodless coup. I am making progress.

I have a stack of math things sorted by child and collated by terms. I have a stack of books I will not need the first term. I have my lesson plan book laid out with a rough sketch of the first term, highlights like holidays, extra-curricular activities, and trips noted. The first two weeks are planned in great detail, page numbers of particular books marked lightly in pencil beside the child's name who will hear the story. I am feeling closer to content. I am feeling that I CAN start school on September 14th.

In the meantime, what about my desk? It, like the majority of our furniture, books, games, winter clothes, continues to wait in the barn until the floors are sanded. The current rumor is that the floors will be sanded and finished by Friday afternoon. I hope it's true. I sure need my brain back.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


I feel like my life is about tending. I tend to household matters like laundry, cooking, and toilet scrubbing so that everyone's lives run more smoothly. This is important work that has been shunned by some, and yet, it's completely necessary. If I do not do it, we have to pay someone else to cook or clean for us, or we have to live in squalor. When we pay someone else to do these menial tasks, we cannot reasonably expect them to bring the same life or soul energy to it. They have their own menial tasks waiting for them after they finish ours, and we tend to pay people very little for this greasing of the wheels, so how could we possibly expect them to devote much love to the tasks.

I tend to the children. These tasks are truly endless and often overwhelming. It's up to me to help them establish the habits that will smooth a few of life's wrinkles while very carefully leaving as many as possible for them to smooth themselves. I decided I would insist on teeth brushing to prevent cavities, because you cannot explain really the long term implications of not brushing your teeth to a 3, 4, or even 9 year old. Ditto bathing, table manners, and appropriate time and place for poop talk. I am responsible at this point for how they go out into the world. While I do not care if their hair is brushed when they're playing in the yard, I do think it should be neat before we run to the grocery. It's also my job to teach them the social mores of nose picking and crotch scratching. The list goes on and on.

I hope to tend a garden and some chickens and a beef cow and the bees. I cannot yet fathom all that that will require.

Somewhere in all that tending, I have to tend myself and my marriage or none of that other stuff is possible. The tricky part is that it's these last two things it's easiest to skimp on. My bath never seems as important as a bath for one of the children or Jason. A child needing a cuddle and story can seem more important that Jason's description of his day. The children's sense of comfort can outweigh our desire to have a date.

I do not get the balance right very often. The pendulum swings wildly most of the time, and something gets missed or mistreated. But, when I find that center, where we all feel pretty well heard, well fed, and loved, I know all my missteps are not too far from the path I've chosen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Zero Area

In permaculture, the areas of a property are numbered by their use and the frequency one interacts with them. The home is considered zero. It's the space we spend the most time in; it reflects what we tell ourselves and how we tend ourselves. Currently, our zero area reflects our priorities and where we find comfort.

We have the majority of the house covered in wide pine boards, and this was a huge lift in cleanliness and comfort. Phaedra had found the house much too ugly before her room had new pine floors. Jason and the carpenters will have these floors all sanded and finished by this time next week. I actually am eagerly anticipating how clean and smooth the floors will feel.

I have been painting and painting and painting, which makes everything brighter and cleaner. Our love of color shows throughout the house. And, like I said, it feels cleaner.

Today, Jason and Todd began laying the new subflooring in the dining room and kitchen, carefully leveling the most troublesome spots so that the flooring will be less problematic. Again, the floor already feels cleaner.

Other points that we have hammered away at- we have a wood stove and wood for it so that we won't have to rely on oil. We have a nice new set of french doors that let in lots of light and allow easier access to the clothesline; they also facilitate moving in our furniture which is still sitting in the barn.

I am anxious to move in our furniture so I can feel settled in this house. And the floors, the painting, and the doors were all the first steps to getting our zero point set so that we can spread from that point into the other areas of our land.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unicorn or pegasus?

I am very comfortable with death, so the childrens' regular surges in curiosity about death do not bother me at all. Sylvie has been in just such a surge for about a year, and during dinner, she asked, "Isn't it bad that people die and make us sad?"

I answered, "It's not bad. We miss people when they die, but sometimes, it's just time to die. It's fine for us to miss them, but it's also fine to die."

She cocked her head to one side and said, "When I die, I am going to tell god I want to be a unicorn next time."

Phaedra jumped in with, "Then they'll put you in a zoo. I am going to tell heaven I want to be a pegasus so I can escape."

I figure there's some heresy in all that, but mostly, I just like how calmly they go around and around, and maybe I'll tell god I want to be a pegasus, too.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I love company. I enjoy welcoming people into my home and feeding them and chatting around the table with them and watching their children dash around the yard. I do not mind washing the extra dishes or a twentieth load of laundry. I like the clatter of more feet, more voices, more everything.

Sometimes, I get a little tired from company. I remember that I am actually a very social introvert who needs a bit of time to myself. Company benefits me in that way, too; it helps recall me to my center after the outbreath of steady engagement. I can savor my solitude, turn off the music, hang up the phone, and listen to the crickets.

It seems that people need people without losing sight of their selves. I have been teaching the children that they must love themselves before they can truly love anyone else, and part of that love is self care and attention to our real needs. We cannot be pleasant and true without knowing our own internal constellation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a Mess- The bathroom

This house on this gently rolling property is a mess. Today, as the carpenters pulled a wall down, they found a defunct rat nest. That's right- a rat nest. I asked, casually, "I would know if there was an active rat infestation, right?"

What's right about this mess of a house? It feels comfy. The light and air move through the house like they know their way around. The cupboards welcome investigation. The leaning walls seem solid and vigilant. The neglected, dark basement tries to be hospitable; it's even dry despite the various drainage issues. The bathroom was unforgivable.

The walls are paneled, and not with some water resistant,
fancy stuff. Then, they are painted puke gray and covered in wallpaper. I figure the wallpaper is fairly recent, as it is not all that moldy.

Then, Kelli came. She looked at this bathroom, her child cried at the thought of being bathed in it. I had decided to do nothing until spring when it would be tiled; Kelli thought it was time to take care of the atrocity.

We used two colors of paint that were left over to make a snappy orange that isn't overpowering. Jason was inspired to add some trim covering the gaping places in the paneling and the ceiling. We are putting in a sink. And, I think we have a much more pleasant six month solution. Come on spring!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Loss of Late Summer

The crickets are chirping loudly and flies buzz the screens. The blueberries are prime and it's not quite time for apples. The last rays of evening are fanned with a taste of coming fall, but it's not fall yet. Where are your children?

Everyone we know has started school if they're not studying at home. These last days of summer, when so many of us think of final trips to the beach or a camping trip that offers a bit less heat, are lost in the grind of everyday. The bookbags are packed, the children are hustled out of bed, and the houses are silent. Then, in these evenings that beg us to linger, linger over the night noises and the touch of cool, linger over the fireflies and the first twinklings of stars, we must shuttle everyone off to bed so they can be fresh in the morning.

We keep our children home for school, and I watched them prance around the yard in the coming evening, dinner on hold for this final parade, and remembered my late games of hide and seek in this season between. Why must we be in such a hurry for them to learn just a little bit more? Are we sure we aren't robbing them of something more precious?