Friday, February 28, 2014

A Morning

Feb 20th. 

It was just before seven a.m. All five of us were up early eating breakfast. The kids were doing the normal deal- stabbing each other with spoons, stealing each other’s napkins, debating over who had more cheerios and taking the time to count them. I ran quickly into the basement to grab something and noticed the floor was slightly damp near the drain. My husband was on his way out to work and I grabbed his arm- “Joe- can you check the basement maybe if you have time? There’s a small leak or drip or something. Or I don’t know, no big deal….” Joe ran downstairs. Two minutes later there’s a noise like a fire hydrant has exploded in our basement.  Joe starts yelling my name, I run downstairs to see him completely soaked, his full body weight pressed through his hand that’s pressed against the value on some pipe- holding back pounds of water that is exploding into our laundry room.

He was trying to tell me about the some broken valve and some switch and something about our basement being ruined. It was important. I know it was important but he had to yell over the pressure of the water and the boys were yelling and Elena was yelling and so I started yelling. What do you need?! I can’t hear you! What do I do?! Where is a switch? Are you going to get electrocuted? And I see the basement floor being covered in water while Joe is trying to think through the situation and how our plumbing works, while holding back all this water while I stand on the stairs and yell insane things at the kids. I yell things like, GET A FLASHLIGHT!! (a flashlight?!) The boys come running to me with fisher price playskool lanterns. I go down in the well- lit basement to try and hand them to Joe. He looks at me like I am insane and yells for a flathead screwdriver.

I can do that. I run upstairs and look for a screwdriver. No Elena you cannot have more cheerios. (Do you understand we are under duress?!) NO more cheerios. No! NO! Where’s the screwdriver?! Fine. Have some cheerios.
I deliver the screw driver and after more water, more water, a slight shock, a white wire, and a switch later the flooding has stopped. The pump stops violently pumping water into our home.  I run upstairs for towels where Elena is sitting eating her fourth bowl of cheerios. She must have heard all the commotion downstairs and the boys running for flashlight upstairs and picked up on the sky high tension adrenaline level because now she sits very quietly and sings softly- “Mom, I am being soooooo good. I am sooooooo good.”
“Yes Elena,” I hand her napkins as I head downstairs. 

Having stopped the water Joe now needs to run to Home Depot to grab a new valve. Or plug. Or whatever it is to replace the metal thing that is broken in half on our basement floor.  Our hero heads out and it is 7:30am and I set to work to cleaning up our basement. I’m standing in the basement with wet towels and wet carpet pieces and wet laundry and can hear the t.v. upstairs. I had sent the boys to watch cartoons so I could clean up the wreck. All of a sudden I realize that one day their basements might flood. And Elmo, or Curious George won’t be able to help them. So I yell for my sons. I also think about yelling for my daughter (her basement could flood too one day) but she’s two. And she now has complete control of the cereal distribution, so I decide not to rock that boat. 

The boys come to the top of the stairs and look down at me while I explain that I need their help. I ask them to take off their pants and shoes and socks and come down in the basement and help me clean up this water.
They start to complain. Water is wet. And cold. And they don’ttttt waaaannnt tooooo. 
“BOYS!!” I say, my voice tense, rising, “MEN- Men DO NOT complain when there is a CRISIS.” I point to the water. “This is a crisis. MEN DO NOT COMPLAIN OR WHINE. They HELP and they WORK and they do what needs to be done.” I stare them down and address my five and four year old. “Men, take off your socks and get .in. this. basement.”

They look down at their mother. Soaking wet pajamas, messy bun on top of her head, standing in water and wet towels and deadly serious. They get down in that basement. 
Well. One did. The other was sent to his room to consider if he wanted to help like a man, or wanted to whine like a baby. Then he too, came down into the basement.

I handed my five year old the shop vac. This is how you shop vac water I told him. I showed him and he went to work. I handed my four year old a garbage bag. This is how you cut up wet carpet pieces to put into a garbage bag, I told him, showed him and he went to work. And we all worked in that basement. And they became so proud of their pruney feet, and that their shirts were getting wet and how strong they were as they lifted up clothes.  And I became so proud of them as I watched my little boys clean up our home.

 And that morning, it was good. I mean, besides the water, and the flooding and the hours of work ahead of me. Those boys in nothing but t.shirts and underwear standing in our basement, learning how a family works, learning how to clean up a mess they didn’t make, learning that helping isn’t always fun. That working is what gets the job done. And when a job needs to be done, they are completely capable to somehow help do it. 

And this is real life- I tell them as we move wet towels and vacuum the water and throw away trash. And sometimes when real life throws water into your basement and you don’t know what to do –you just figure it out. 
Maybe there will be yelling and running around, but you figure it out.
Just like how Daddy did and Mommy did and now you are too. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


** This post was written way back in early Nov, now we have over 12 inches of snow on the ground : )

November 6 2013.

Last night we received a dusting of snow. I woke up in the middle of the night and could see the giant pine trees being iced gently with white.  My four year old wandered bare foot into the kitchen at 6.37 a.m. this morning, he looked wide eyed out at the snow. “Mom” he said in total seriousness. “I think I have to go outside right now.” I told him to do what he needed to do.  Because if you ever feel as if you need to be out in creation right now- this second- you should be. So he put on his shoes and put his hands in his pockets and walked around our yard. Touching the snow with his bare hand. Kicking it with his sneakered feet. He gazed at the cornfield and looked for deer. He was completely content in the now. It wasn’t until his ears were icy and his cheeks were red that he came up towards the garage.

And then his sister woke up. Only two, she told me that she had to go outside right now. And even if you’re two, if you need to be outside in creation, then you should be. So I put on her boots, with her bare knees popping out under her pink pajama shorts. I gave her a coat and delighted she walked to our pumpkins and brushed off their snow hats.
The sun was just peeking around the pine trees.

 Be Outside. We try to tell our children. Be Outside – we try to model for our children. And when you’re outside, you don’t always need to play or work or be productive. Just be there. Wander. Touch. Listen.
Know that as important as you are, you are a piece of something bigger.
And our hope is that our kids will feel the exhilaration and adrenaline and peace that only the wild breath of nature brings. 
You cannot control this, we tell them as rain pounds on our tent.  
 There is no button for this, we show them rushing rivers.
This took thousands of years – we show them the curve of canyons and take their tiny hands to run sand through their fingers.
Thousands of years- We point to the sky and tell them that is how far away the stars are.
Tiny insects, are right here. Hold them gently. Protect them.
Play under the trees and under the sky. In the snow, take off your mittens, feel the cold explode your lungs when you run and the heat warm your face and the earth wet your feet.
Every day. Do this every day.

 There is something that makes us grow in an environment we can’t control.
And maybe if we can learn to adapt in nature, we can learn to adapt in life. Maybe if we realize at a young age that the only variable we can truly change is ourselves, then we’ll focus on changing ourselves.

 So don’t wear a coat. Be cold. And next time- wear your coat. I circle around my kids putting a ridiculous numbers of layers on, answering their cries and protests in a rhythmic manner. I know. You don’t want to go outside. I know. I put on their boots. I know. It’s cold. I put on their hats. I know. Legos are so much fun. I hand them mittens. I know. I know. It’s boring. It’s so boring. I push their little bodies out the door.

 And some days I lead myself in an equal conversation as we corral them up and over hills. I know. This sled is heavy. They’re so whiny. They’re so little. It’s so cold.

 But the bottom line is this: It is worth it.
The good trips, the bad trips, the trips where everyone whined or cried or spent half the time throwing up. The hikes where I had to stop and nurse a baby on the side of a mountain. The sled rides that ended with snow down someone’s back and also up their nose-

It’s worth it.
You are a piece of something bigger.
There is beauty all around you. 

We tell our children as we shelp them to lakes, and push them outside, and lay quietly with our feet in the grass and our backs pressed into the earth, our arms circling our beloveds looking at the sky.
Feel alive
we tell them.