The night has snuffed out the last of the light. The snow is falling, we are all in preparation for bed. Jammies on. Teeth brushed. But there is one ingredient missing. Do you know what it is? What’s that? A story? Well, yes, a story. It just so happens I know one.
Here’s one to as you snuggle up on this cold January night.
“Once upon a time there were three men, all working towards building the same structure. A back breaking job, chipping rock to form the wall that would surround a new building. It was hot. The progress was slow. And so they worked, day by day.
A stranger happens by, noticing the pile of rubble and wondered to the first worker, “What are you doing?” The worker, agitated by the interruption, doesn’t even look up from his labor. He responds gruffly with, “What does it look like I’m doing, I’m breaking rocks!”
The wandering stranger moves on down the sidewalk a bit and asks the second worker, “What are you doing?” The second worker responds, leaning heavily on his hammer, in a tired worn voice, “I’m chipping stone for this stupid fence.”
The stranger goes a bit further and sees the third worker, busy stacking the rock, and asks him, “What are you doing?” The worker looks up, wipes the sweat from his brow, smiles, and with a sweeping gesture toward the location of the new building says, “I’m building a cathedral, and it will be magnificent!”
Three laborers. All doing the same job. All received the same pay. Each with a different view of his work.
I have to admit that my view isn’t so positive most of the time. A lot of the time I’m just face down in the sticky ceramic tile. Or the stained berber carpeting. Or the piles of smelly laundry.
In the midst of all the cooking, cleaning, teaching, and mothering, I can feel very much like the first laborer. I can be bitter and indifferent. I feel the slow progress of my daily work. Sometimes being a wife and mother can feel like such a thankless job. I never seem to accomplish anything, and the work is seemingly endless. It taunts me daily. I tell myself, “No one really appreciates me.”
Sometimes I find myself in the work boots of the second contractor. Tired and worn. Stretched to what I feel is my limit. Empty of self. I inwardly sigh at the constant requests of my children. The expectations of my husband. I tire at the pull of the requirments and responsibilites. And secretly I wonder, “Will what I do here make any difference?”
Oh God, I want to be like the third worker. I want to see the bigger picture. To see my daily life as you see it. To see the importance of my service. To have abundant joy and take pride in what I’m called to do. I want to see that the work that I’m doing here is much bigger than even I can imagine.
That I have in my power, the ability to change this environment from tedious to tremendous. For you and your purposes. Teach me how to make doing dishes a holy service. Cleaning laundry as a worship. Making my house a place of imperfect magnificence.
Today, they are mess makers. Snack sneakers. Dish dirtiers. Fight pickers. Clingy cryers. Fussin Nellies. Eye rollers. Grumblers. May God help me to see past that. When I inwardly sigh at my days and I stop to I wipe my brow, remind me to choose to smile, look at my girls and say, “I am building a cathedral. One day I will stand and see four magnificent God serving women.”
So, for those who have the extreme blessing of knowing me, you know I like to verbalize. I am a talker. And sometimes, I whine. I might have an occasional tendency to complain. Shameful, I know. Woe to those who know me.
Today… I am sick. I gots me a little cold. Generously served up by one of my bacteria-carrying little ones. (They are so kind to share. – They get their giving spirit from their Mamma.)
So, now taking into consideration my love of the art of spoken words couple that with me sick? Well, no one wins.
It is a sad day, indeed. Let the complaining commence.
I could tell you of the stuffy nose. The scratchy throat. The pained ears. The chilly toes. (Oh! The chilliness of the toes!)
But I will try to save you from the torment of my complaining.(Because my love for you is so great.)
Instead, I will offer up to you… a pictorial.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So for your viewing pleasure, I give you.
My morning as a me… only sick.
Me and my BFF. My mac. The warmth of the motor. The glow of the screen. Ahhh….
It’s cold here at the “Du” today. (The “Du” is my husband’s affectionate name for our temporary home, a duplex.) We are trying to save some money on the heating bill. Anybody ever been there? The briskness may be why I am ill today. (Remind me to complain later.)
Here we have exhibit “A” of my illness. An empty roll of TP, which was my tissue of choice until Charlie got me a new box of ACTUAL tissues. Good thing he also bought a fresh supply of TP as well, as this was the last roll available in the “Du”.
When you are as ill as me. (Or as lazy as me. Or a combination of both.) You need to keep the essentials nearby. Here you will see my phone and remote. It is sad how worn out our remote is. (This is in no way an indication of how much TV we watch here at the “Du”. None whatsoever.)
Awe, look who stopped by to check on me… ain’t she sweet? So full of love. So full of kindness. Compassion, even. She even brought her own blanket so I won’t have to share mine. (I am not what they call a “sharer”.)
Wait folks. Wait just a minute. She did not come as an angel of mercy… but a thief of my Mac. O cruelness of it all. I cannot bear such treachery… in my own house. It pains me so. (Remind me to complain about that later.)
I turn to the Bible in times like this. Of illness. Of betrayal. It is a healing salve, is it not? I do love me some study time. (Even if someone is stealing my covers while I read it.)
Even though, at the moment, my toes have reach chilliness that should never be known to man, I will push through this and share with you a bit of lost wisdom. I don’t know if you knew this or not. But one of the most well-kept secrets on recovery is M&Ms. Lot’s of them. Preferably peanut. I accredit them to my speedy recovery. Wait… I am not quite recovered yet. Maybe I should eat more? Couldn’t hurt.
My oldest daughter has been homeschooling. What? I didn’t tell you? Well, she is. We have abandoned the traditional brick and mortar school for the “School in yer Jammies”. I highly recommend it. (Even if I have to take a break from eating M&Ms to check her American History quiz.)
When you homeschool, your child can attempt to speed your healing with humor. Humor may be healing. But wasting chocolate in such a manner? That is not helpful to my recovery. I wouldn’t advise it. In fact, it is frowned upon here at the “School in yer Jammies”.
And the younger are so easily influenced. For shame. (Remind me to complain about this later.)
I decided to paint my toes. I do enjoy to paint. Canvases. And although, most people might categorize me as creative, I am always disappointed in my toe painting skills. I chose this color because I thought it might look “Christmassy”. It does not. It looks “Shrekky”. I am not delighted. (Again, remind me to complain later.)
Here you go, something for you lovers of all things random. Here is something that is CUTE & GREEN. Unlike my shrekky toes. Right? Right? It makes me smile.The caterpillar, not my toes.
Well, I must retreat back into my blankie. Have a bowl of stewed chicken and veggies. Watch the Hallmark channel. Maybe being sick isn’t the worst way to spend the morning.
So the other day I took a pair of the young’uns to Cleveland to visit the Rainforest at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. (We have season passes. I know, it’s impressive. Be impressed. I know people.) So, anyhoo, me and the pair headed northwards to go visit the Rainforest and I took along my trusty D80 to snap a few pictures of a couple of my kids cavorting with the critters. Well, when I was driving, my children took control of the shutter.
This was the result of that road trip.
There was a snowstorm the night before. My lil Cabrio was enveloped by 15″ of powder.
Perhaps I should have taken the time to clean off my whole windshield, no? Eh, it was fine. Who needs to look to right? Certainly not me.
These little kicker boots belong to my three year old. Who handles a Nikon D80 with alarming ease.
How does a 9 year old survive a one hour trip (thanks to the snow laden roads) to Cleveland? Electronics. That’s how.
Ah, the loverly grayness that is Ohio somehow seems less dreary when captured by the chubby little fingers of brown eyed baby.
Why does my 9 year old beauty look so suspicious? It’s like she doesn’t believe me when I say Ohio is cheerful. Eh, who am I kidding? It’s still gray. Still dreary.
But the company makes it tolerable.
Being a stay at home Mom has many rewards. And depending on the day, just as many downsides. If I were working for another person, no one would ever eye me up and down at the end of my work day and suspiciously question, “So, what did YOU do today?” The times I have been asked such a question is too many to number. And each time the question brings me discomfort . I go back and forth between wanting to defend myself and second guessing my abilities and work ethic. Near the end of a day, when I do get asked this, I shift back and forth in my seat, my mind races to replay the day. “Did I work as hard as I could?” “I did spend a lot of time not doing productive things.” I can understand
why someone might ask me this query. There will be days when dishes are undone, in the sink, on the counters, and often times scattered through the house where the users left them. There will be days when laundry is sitting cold and wrinkled in the dryer, or in a basket piled high to its limit, or often times on the floor of the users rooms. Don’t be mistaken though, just because laundry is on the floor does not mean that the aforementioned clothing is dirty. It could be clean. From where I had folded it and given it to the users to be taken to their rooms and be put away into their dressers or closets, but instead, they put it on top of dressers with good intentions to return later and do the job to its completion. But instead, it gets forgotten, then knocked over, until it resembles the dirty and discarded clothing that sits next to it on the floor. This can only be remedied by a trip from me into their rooms to sniff and examine and sort dirty from clean. There are days when the kitchen table is hidden from view. Hidden by homework discarded. By bill unopened. By junk mail left. By the contents of a purse that was spilled out in a desperate search for a few quarters for snack money. It is a miracle of nature how loose items are magnetically drawn to open flat surfaces. Kitchen counters. Tables. Shelves. I have never seen a science research paper on this phenomenon, but I am willing to bet that there is enough data in my house alone to back up this theory. These are the things that stare me in the face, defying me to answer that I work hard. I am not a non stop cleaning machine. I clean out of necessity.
Because it is required of me. Because we need clothes to wear. Dishes to eat off of. Utensils to eat with. Cleaning does not inspire me. It is not the therapeutic joy that I have heard about. When my acquaintances speak of their chores, you see a smile spread across their faces and they practically glow at the idea of the smell of bleach or the thought of a newly reorganized office. I envy them. Because what inspires me is frivolous to most. And what we do, measures who we are. Like it or not. And not whether or not we do it, but how skilled we are at it. How seamless we balance the many aspects of motherhood. Clean house, pantries full, homework assignments complete, faces scrubbed, outfits matchy
matched and cute, loose and crazy hair tamed, parent teacher conferences attended, the poor marks on the report card fall on our shoulders, the toys that gets tripped on is our fault, the lack luster dinner that no one eats, the fragile emotional well being of our children our ours to maintain, to teach them health and esteem, love and safety, teach them work ethic (that you yourself question if you even have at all), train them in the ways of organization, groom integrity into their character. In so many different ways I fall short. I utterly and completely fail. There are days where I feel lost. Alone. Where I go to bed questioning my abilities. And where I wake up praying I don’t ruin the chance have been given to impact my girls
in a great a wonderful way. There are days when prayers are harder and silence and doubt are easier. The silence is mostly in my heart, not in my world.
Because I am a mom, so my world is full of noise. Electric toys, coughing in the night, groans in the morning, the crash of a broken glass, the all to familiar whine of my children, the radio that seeps out of their room and clashes with the cartoons
on the television, and the occasional bicker the breaks out amongst the ranks.
I take encouragement knowing that this is common territory for Moms like me. And knowing full well the love of my Father in heaven. Who in him and through him, I will always be enough. Who sees me as I am. All my failures. All my shortcomings. My laziness. And loves me the same. Who understands where I am. And is patient with me. Like a good, loving Father. The way he parents me, makes me a better parent to my children. Makes me better in every way.
Ha! Looking back over this blog post, I see it’s a rather solemn post. But, that’s okay.
My youngest turned three last week.
When I was little I remember how time used to drag by. Each Christmas and birthday took eons to get here. A trip to the Champion Hills Department store was the longest drive when i was young. When my parents gave me an extra 15 minutes of playtime, it felt like freedom.
Now that I am.. ahem… older, time whizzes past. My wedding, then a baby, then another, then another, then another. Christmas, then birthday after birthday. Crawling then walking. Cooing then talking. Diapers then big girl pants. Gray hairs then wrinkles.
Where does the time go? Why does it feel so much faster?
I think Reese has all the answers. At the ripe age of three she contains the wisdom of all the ages:
1. Live right now. Taste. Feel. Breathe. Be. When you are young all that matters is right now. As you age you become acutely aware of time and of it’s passing.
2. Don’t be self concious. Get messy. Get sticky. Get dirty. Be naked. (I am not just talking literally here.) It’s hard to enjoy a 2 pound sucker when you are worried about getting your face sticky. You can always wash it off later.
3. Be grateful. For what you have right now. For what you feel right now. Appreciate it fully. Revel in what you have. Cuz life tastes so much sweeter when you do.
Thank you, Reese Josyln. My enthusiastic cascade of laughter. May you always help me to see things through your eyes. Pure and perfect.
And Ramen Noodles. And popsicles. And to make our couches into beds. And drag out all our pillows into our living room. And force all adults to watch cartoons. To keep the thermometer within reach AT ALL TIMES. And for my arms to get sore from rubbing backs.
Because this, my friends is what sickness means in the Neff House. It is a ritual we go through when each child shows signs of any illness. And yesterday we didn’t just experience one sick child, but three. Three children, all with the same complaints,: “Mom, my neck hurts.” and “Mom, my head hurts.” and Mom, my belly hurts.”. If you have children, then you should recognize these maladies as symptoms of strep.
So now we wait for the doctor to open his doors. A mere 10 minutes from now I will begin the calling to try to get through to a doctor’s office whose phone lines will be, no doubt, busy from all the other parents trying to get their children in to see him today. We will pray for favor. Amen.
Below you will enjoy picture of each ailing one.
First Reggie. Notice she is pretty excited about the prospect of getting to stay home. “Mom, do I get to stay home from school tomorrow?” She likes to see the glass half full. She enjoys what she can outta this experience. She is also an original child and has decided to mix it up with an additional complaint, “Mom, my one ear hurts.” She always has to be the best. (Over achiever. Humph.)
Reese, ah my baby. She was pretty upset about this whole illness thing. She acted as if someone gave it to her on purpose. Like we did it TO her. And she let us all know. Oh, the grouchiness that has ensued after the onset of the, “Mom, my neck hurts!” Oh, the grouchiness. But, oh, the change in her that was wrought with one dose of Motrin. Ah, Motrin. In my prayer time last night lifted up thanksgiving for the person who invented Motrin. It is in my humble opinion, a miracle drug. Thank you, God. Amen.
Keni, though reacts differently. She has a super immune system and never ever gets sick. (She’s like her Dad.) And when the day does come that her body submits to a germ, she is very disappointed. In herself. “Mom, what about my homework?” and “Mom, what about my test?” and “I CAN”T miss my test!” and “I will get in trouble!” and “What about my library book?” She runs through all the possible horrible implications of missing her schooling. The little brain just won’t let her rest. It is bad enough she is being tortured in body, but I think the mental torture she puts herself through is much worse.
She should embrace the situation. Like this:
I don’t know if you all realize this or not, but… I love Kraynaks. I go every year, twice a year. A holy pilgrimage, if you will, once at Easter to see the Bunny Land and once at Christmas to see Electric Christmas.
But horror of all horrors, we missed Electric Christmas. One delay led to another and the next thing you knew it was over.
Procrastination is never a good idea.
In an effort to avoid missing the upcoming Electric Holiday display, I loaded the kids in the van and we headed out, on Valentines day. For future reference, Valentine’s Day is a good day to celebrate Easter. No lines. At all. It was slow paced and dare I say? Relaxing.
The kids and I had a great time. And their joy was further compounded when my Dad gave them each 5 dollars to spend on whatever the wished.
At this point you may wonder what that story has to do with that picture up there. (Some of you may not be wondering, because you know me. And my pathalogical need to over explain things. Bear with me. Thank you.)
Well, Reese at the tender age of two is quite the bargin shopper. She bought a little wind up fuzzy white bunny that hops across the floor, a little blue basket to carry it in, and white chocolate bunny sucker, and a page of 100 Go! Diego! Go! tattoos. (I know! That’s a lot for five bucks, huh? My kinda woman.)
Anyhoo…these tattoos are the sole reason for this post. Late last night Reese applied a copious amount of tattoos to her little naked body.
One on each cheek. One on the back of each hand. One on the top of each foot, eighteen on her right leg, five on her left leg.
Then she moved on to others in her family, sharing a mix of her old love: Diego and her new love: tattoos. She tattoed each of my hands as well, and my forehead. She got Alina while she was in bed, one on each of her hands, then one on her leg after she fell asleep. Keni and Reegie also have thier fair share of skin art, and I think it’s would be a true thing to say that Chuck is the only construction worker who has a Diego Tat this morning on his arm.
So as the Neff’s go out into the world today we push the envelope fashion wise. Making a statement. Of our love for Reese and her love for Diego (and tattoos.)
We are nothing if not a trendsetting family.
A massive tower built by Reggie. A proud moment. (Moments after this picture was taken it toppled.)
Keni’s big accomplishment this holiday? She fell and kissed the cement. In return the cement took most of her two front teeth.
Me after eating 8 days of Christmas goodies. Side note: Reese took this picture. Another Side note: My manicure? Press on nails.
Our tree.Which I love. It is so pretty. The girls decorated the whole thing themselves. I will be hiring out my little elves next year. Make your reservations now.
Reggie looking beautiful for her Christmas Program.
And Alina ready for her band concert.