Oh that glorious vacation. I already miss it dearly! Part of my reason is because I had my parents there. We all got along wonderfully. No, that's wrong. We thoroughly enjoyed one another's company! It was such a great time- having all of us together with no responsibilities, no worries, nothing looming over our heads- what bliss! One of the biggest loves: our amazing housekeeper. She would spend more than an hour in our villa every day- it was always perfect and spotless, gotta love that!
That bliss made coming home that much harder. In the wise words of a friend, "Easier to ask who doesn't feel down after a vacation. Better yet, if you don't feel down, it wasn't a vacation." Ah, true!
Coming home meant resuming our routine, and getting back to work. The work of finding a job (for Kurt), the work of homeschooling, the work of household chores, the work of our daily lives.
While we started to get back into our groove, Kurt found himself pretty ill. He isn't one to normally get sick, so when it does happen, it happens fast and furious. He went to bed, and I looked around and found myself overwhelmed. Unpacking, homeschool, my own courses, the house, the pets, the children, it all fell on me. I wanted to scream and be angry. But rather than do that, I just turned on the music and started to get going.
First, I lit my candle. Yes, my little candle friend who greets me and my weary body. My candle almost speaks to me: "Remember, pray for your family every time you see me. Pray for them, and pray for you. Pray for peace. Allow Him to help you." Yes, little candle, thank you. (By the way, your cinnamony scent is fabulous, and just what I needed on this cold night.)
That little candle helps remind me of what it is that I have promised to do. That candle reminds me to stop the negative thoughts, and remember my blessings. Focus on peace. Focus on happiness. Focus on my little family. As I clean I think of my wonderful little children- each one, I pray for by name. I say specific prayers in my heart for each of their individual needs, and I pray for guidance as I lead them. I pray for my husband. I pray for myself. I pray for my parents. I pray for Kurt's parents. I pray for our grandparents. I pray, and I work with my hands.
My own mother was (is) a hard worker. Employers will proudly say she can do the job of many, and her efficiency is unmatched (no, seriously, she is gifted). Her mind has a special talent for organizing, categorizing, planning, and her follow through makes her a tough act to follow. I was raised in a very clean house, where dinner was hot and on the table, and dessert generally followed (nearly always home made, ohhhhh you should try her cobbler, it's to die for! But you cannot try her rice pudding, my father and I have a long standing tradition of fighting over it. We actually have made a game of it over the years, of hiding it from one another, swapping portions, etc. Really, her baking is superb. If you have a chance, try it. You will never look at a regular cookie the same way again.) She managed to accomplish all of this while going to school, raising my brother and myself, and working a full time job. She did this, and never do I recall her complaining about fatigue. Wow, just writing that made me tired...
Anyway, growing up with such a mom left me big shoes to fill! Unfortunately I was not very proactive in attempting to learn how to be a housekeeper or cook, so when I moved out on my own I was fairly useless. I actually hired someone to clean my first apartment for me (seriously). I could spray window cleaner and dust, but for deeper projects I had no idea of what to do. I also knew little about laundry (my mother attempted to have us learn, but my brother and I realized if we tossed our clothes in the washer, my mother would eventually want to wash her things, and would process our loads for us. Yeah... I was less than helpful... That said, I did know how to wash towels. My dad taught me that when I was in elementary school. So, at least I knew that much!) But really, my voids in knowledge were there because I felt like I had better things to do. Yes, my teenage self was too important to learn how to house-keep.
I am here, with my little candle burning, and I feel overwhelmed. Kurt has gone to bed sick, and little Fina is dozing too. The boys come to me, and with beaming smiles offer to help. I smile, and we work together. We do the dishes, and we dance to the music. It takes longer, because they have small and uncoordinated hands, but their company takes the sting out of having to work so hard and having so much to do. Harrison follows me and helps with laundry. Carter is busy using a small hand brush and dustpan, trying to clean the kitchen and dining room floors. Harrison moves to the bedroom and cleans up the toys. Carter picks up the pet areas. Harrison reorganizes the shoe rack. Carter wipes down the table. I am putting things away, and sorting the piles of mail. Together, we get a lot done. The boys are thrilled, they cannot wait for Daddy to see how hard they worked. They brush their teeth, get into bed, say their prayers aloud and drift easily to sleep.
I kiss them and get back to work. Laundry swapped. Baskets moved. Piles changed. It feels like it doesn't end.
The candle flickers, the flame gasping its last breaths.
I am exhausted. I can barely move.
I rearrange the refrigerator decorations so that Kurt can see a note I wrote him. It is a love note, with hearts and expressions of well-wishes for his health. It took 4 attempts to write the perfect words and make it look right. Kurt often tries to get up before me and allow me some rest. He knows I have sleep troubles, and nursing exaggerates them, so he sacrifices his own sleep to help out. I know it is hard, and if he isn't feeling well, I can only imagine how difficult it will be, so I choose my words carefully- expressing gratitude while still offering him an out in case he is still sick. Part of me is jealous he is sick, I want to be sleeping too. I force those thoughts away, and I get back to work.
The candle is nearly gone. Its light a mere speck.
I write the homeschool plan on the white board- Carter in red, Harrison in blue, shared activities in purple.
I look around. Things look nice, orderly, and put together. I take a deep breath, and savor the feeling of a clean house (something I always went to sleep with as a child- and a feeling I adore!!!). I smile, my heart is warm. My body is pushed past exhaustion, and is now in physical pain. I don't care. I feel accomplished. I feel good.
The flame dies. Darkness comes.
My baby wakes.
I bow my head and want to cry.
One more thing.
Always one more thing.
My burden feels like more than I can possibly carry.
I just want to crumble and fall. I want to scream. "Look at all the work I just did! LOOK! Isn't there a quota of work before it stops?! Isn't there a level of exhaustion that is reached where we just get to finally rest!?"
And then I remember: I can ask for help. I do not need my candle lit- I can pray anytime. I say (if we are being honest, it was more like a scream) in my heart: "PLEASE help me. I cannot possibly do this alone!"
Kurt walked up the stairs, and even though his head ached and he felt horrible, he helped.
I look at my mother, and I have no idea how she did it. (Does it.) I love a clean house. I love visiting her home because her home is so beautiful it always feels like a hotel. Fluffy bath robes with luxury products. Double showers with towels nearly as tall as I am. Breakfast provided (my dad does magical things to eggs- he really does!). It feels less like "home" and more like a spa trip- it is like a vacation! I want that in my home. I want my family to feel that feeling. I want my children to feel comfort, love, and warmth. I want my husband to walk in and take a breath and feel like he can unwind. I want my guests to feel pampered and cared for, just by being in the house.
My desires are good, I just need to keep perspective.
How many mothers do I know who work themselves to the bone to create an atmosphere that is full of love? How many mothers do I know who smile and walk past the dishes that pile, to heed the call of a child wanting individual attention? How many mothers do I know who sacrifice their personal time to help another? How many mothers do I know who endure the monotony of housekeeping, and continue to put their shoulders to the wheel and press on? How many mothers do I know who cringe at the idea of having to make one more meal or snack, and yet still do?
Most are quiet about their labors.
A few brave souls speak out.
Tonight, I speak out.
As part of the my vacation blogging, I blog tonight on how much I loved having a housekeeper. I loved having a housekeeper scrub the fixtures we had used, sweep the sand we had tracked, and change the sheets we had dreamed between. I loved it! What a beautiful thing, to have a vacation from all the housework that I routinely do! It was heavenly!
Tonight, as I do my final walk through the house, spending those last moments picking up so our home is in order in the morning, I will think of my mother. I will think of all the mothers I know who work so hard to create beautiful homes for their families. I will think of the mothers who push themselves to wash one last dish, fold one more shirt, or change one more load of laundry. I till think of them, and I will pray. I will pray for them to feel rest, to know of God's love for them, and for them to feel comfort in the work they do.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
I loved my vacation. The first day home, I found myself on the phone with my parents, and we joked, "Where is Ruphina?! She needs to help us unpack and clean!" Having her help us for two weeks was truly wonderful, and it reminded me of what I give my own family. As much as I loved slipping into clean sheets and showering in a clean shower, it helped me remember that own family loves that too- and while it is nice to have someone else do it, the benefits are still the same if I can accomplish them. Working hard to create a place of peace is important, and can help uplift and inspire. Every time I wash our sheets, every time I sweep the floor, every time I do the laundry- I help create a more serene atmosphere for myself and my family, and oh how great that is!