Wednesday, June 5, 2013

two steps back

Yesterday mom was here and in the two hours it took me to run errands alone-oh-joy-oh-bliss, she had the kitchen swept, dishes washed, and the baskets of clean but wrinkly laundry folded. As she pushed a pile of clean clothes back on the table, it shoved a cup of water off the table. No big deal, but of course it was rinse water from Jude's peg-doll painting. And he'd been painting with black. 

I'd just replaced the broken heat-vent cover that the kids kept stepping through with a nice, shiny white one. We've also just put up new white bead-board in the kitchen. Guess where the black painty water splashed? 

Mom said, "One step forward, two steps back!"

That's the way things feel these days. The dishwasher broke, and I've gotten used to washing dishes by hand again. I find it kind of meditative actually, and the kitchen is cleaner in general because I can't pile dishes on the counter all day. I also feel good about cutting a bit on our energy and water use. So we decided to just leave it broken.

Then I registered for a course, after much deliberation and figuring out how to summon the time, energy, and money for it. I had the exact amount in our savings account, just in case (of car repairs or broken appliances) but decided to go for it and trust that nothing would break before I rebuilt that fund.

Last night, the washer broke. 

And to make it even kind of funny, my old glass-and-wood washboard fell off the shelf a few weeks ago and smashed on the floor so I can't even was the clothes by hand.

Kind of funny. But not really.

It seems to be the rhythm of life with small kids, though. You save money on groceries one week, just to find that your kids have all outgrown their shoes the next. You clear out two bags of clothes to give away, then find three bags of second-hand clothes on your step, left by a kindly friend. You put away the last of the clean laundry, grin in satisfaction at your empty laundry baskets, then find the pile under your child's bed. Okay, honestly, that never happens (the empty baskets thing).

I could go on and on about this dance of one step forward and two steps back...tidy the house for a birthday party, then end up with a messier house than you started with. Have all the dishes washed, then find that your husband has cleaned out his car and filled the sink with moldy containers. Get all the garbage and recycling ready for the dump to find that you don't have a card for the dump (and the store that sells them is all out). You finally put the baby down for a nap as your preschooler barges in the door roaring and crying for a band aid.

This morning Robin went to school in Birkenstock clogs and asked me if they looked funny with his dress clothes. I said, "Kinda". Then he told me that he has NO clean socks because he hadn't been putting them in the laundry this week. That kinda turned into kinda sad at that point.

If you're a mother of small kids, or have ever been a mother of small kids living on a tight budget, you know the steps well. If you try to lead, you end up stiff and awkward. If you just lean into it, trust your partner, and handle it with grace and a smile, it's not so bad. I do find the occasional curse whispered under my breath helps, too.

On the bright side, it's an opportunity to show your children how to handle (first world) adversity with grace, faith, and patience. 


  1. Oh yes. I am familiar with this dance. Why does it still manage to catch me off guard?
    I couldn't agree more with you about leaning into it. I used to rail against it which never turned out to be a good thing - leaning in and cursing with a smile on my face always turns out to be a better solution.
    Hope today is a good one.

  2. So ... you're not going to Squam? ;)

  3. P.S. that is supposed to be a winking emoticon. I wish I knew one for huggs, as I would have liked to include that.

  4. Argh! Always the way isn't it! Try Freecycle for a new washer. I got a great one a few years back in Ottawa that was destined for landfile and it was FREE!! AND, it was actually much newer and nicer than the one that broke.

  5. This feels like the story of my life for some time now. I'm starting to think this is because it is just that: life. I'm trying very hard to choose the right perspective on days like these (and there are many)! Parenting/adulthood/grown-up responsibility seems awfully daunting some days. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    I wish I could help with the laundry!

  6. Yes lean into, lean deep into it :)

    Congratulations on the course, can't wait to hear about. Sorry about the washer, I can imagine with all the little ones this is not good. Wish I was your neighbour, you could drop your laundry off :)

    I too find doing the dishes meditative.

    Hugs to you.

  7. yes, we live on the budget too. I find I say 'no' more often then yes, because the extra isn't there for 'wanted' things. needs get met, and the occasional want yes. But I heard a survey the other day that stated the more we get what we want (children too) the less satisfying each time. When we work hard to save, or get something by earning it, the more satisfaction we get, and the more we enjoy said item. So I figure, its not bad, the budget. And we are living with luv and acceptance, really the most important things in life I can teach my beautiful wee ones <3

  8. so recognizable!!! We have a little more wiggle room now, but we feel that having very little for a long time has taught us all many things- although sometimes it seems that the kids do not remember it as well as we do(for them it was normal of course). By the way- they say that using a dishwasher actually saves water...I washed by hand for a while too due to a broken dishwasher. And didn't mind it that much either for similar reasons.

    I am sending hugs nonetheless, because like you say, it is not really funny.

  9. I have never had a dishwasher so I guess I find doing dishes to meditative in a zen sort of way. I know what you mean, sadly we still live paycheck to paycheck (I'm hoping to change that soon), but with todays payday I think I finally caught up everything except my student loans. Now I just sit back and wait for something to happen.

  10. I read your post, and then today one of my twin 9 year olds locked his twin brother outside. Outside twin panicked and put his hand through the glass pain on our old front door. We need a whole new door and frame. Sheesh, it never seems to end. Good to hear about other families struggle to stay on top.

  11. when my 4 were little and I was at home full time homeschooling life was very " lean" from a material standpoint.Well below any recognized poverty level I've seen by Canadian standards. Things are somewhat more " flush" now but I never really loosened my belt from those hard years. Although sometimes terrifying and exhausting I know I learned so much about what we really needed. My adult children seem to have gleaned some lessons about priorities from those years as well.
    Swear when you need to- it's cathartic -and inexpensive therapy ;)

  12. You have just described my life. Especially the part about having the dishes all done and then your husband loading up the sink with moldy containers. I smiled at that. Loved this post though. Seems like we are all familiar with the dance.


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