Thursday, July 18, 2013

100 Years

Our house is celebrating its Centennial this year.

Granted, we haven't actually lived in this house for one hundred years (seeing as we are not Zombies) and I will confess the old gal has had a few facelifts through the years. But the bones of our happy home, along with the handful of remaining leaded glass windows, are all part of her original 100 year old charm.

She was considerably smaller when we first moved in. Over the years we have stretched her to her limit; ripping off the roof and adding a third floor, moving staircases, adding 6 feet to the back of the house, reconfiguring the basement (again), remodeling the kitchen (again), and none of that includes the work to the yard and the gajillion other small projects that have been done and continue to be done so that we can keep enjoying her hospitality for another 20+ years and beyond.

The latest project doesn't involve any demo work or structural changes, but it will require some elbow grease and determination. It may also possibly drive me into the loony bin (but I've said that about a thousand other projects worse than this one so you'd be wise to take my hyperbolic threats with a grain of salt.) 

(Can I get a whoop whoop for the nice use of the word hyperbolic?)

For the past four or five years I have been saying that when Jack goes to college I am going to have he and Annie switch bedrooms. And then at some point when I wasn't looking, those four or five years went by and we are.

There are very practical reasons for the switch. His room is bigger. His closet is bigger. He has an extra storage closet in his room in addition to a full-size clothes closet. Considering the whole point of him going to college is that he is going to be gone most of the year it seems to make sense that the child who still has another 10 years of residency status left here at The Centennial House should get the better, bigger room. She's also a girl and we all know what that means in relation to closet space. She's going to need more.

Beyond the practical reasons, I'm excited about the side benefits. The most important side benefit being that this is a golden opportunity to clean out, clear out and get out lots of stuff. 

Me likey getting rid of stuff. 

So, it's all good. Both kids are excited about the move and I'm completely excited about the endpoint when it is really truly all done. What I'm not excited about is the hours and hours of work it is going to take to get us to the finish line. There is painting to be done, carpets to be cleaned, clothes to be moved, trinkets and treasures to be sorted and (hopefully) given away. 

Note to the little hoarder (aka Annie): Mom is not going to tolerate much sentimentality in this process. This is a time to be aggressive, cold-hearted and incredibly focused. Keep your eye on the prize, Sweetie. A clean, organized, beautiful new bedroom. (I've already broken it to her that the Dog a Day Calendar pages will not be making the trek across the hall.) 

So, I'm excited. Annie is excited. Jack is even happy about the change and the potential for a fresh start (his current room is beyond belief messy). Everybody is on board and ready to go!

So, why can't I get started?

Well, I'll admit, one reason is probably just because it is a BIG project and it is hard to know where to start. Do I clean out the rooms first? Do I start painting? Which room do I paint first? Where does the resident of each respective room sleep while painting is going on? Can Nate Berkus just come and do all this for me? He'd have a whole crew to help him so he could knock it out in like three days and he'd look cute at the same time (I'm not going to look cute for one second of this project). I could just sit back and post pictures to Facebook while you all envy me and my Nate Berkus bedroom makeover. Although, why would I waste Nate Berkus on my kid's bedrooms....? Forget it, if he shows up he's doing my room, and bathroom, and closet...And maybe my laundry room too, because only professional help could save that tiny space from the mayhem that it is.

There's that.

But I'm stymied for other reasons. Reasons that have nothing to do with paint colors and boxes of Little League participation trophies (what do you do with those??), and have everything to do with five years that went by in the blink of an eye.

For so long now the whole Great Bedroom Switcharoo was just an idea. A good idea, I'll give you that, but just an idea. It was out there. It was in some unknown future land in which our eldest child was going to leave home and live somewhere else for 9 months out of the year. It was just an idea.

Now, it's here. And even though he isn't going as far away as we once thought he might be, he is still going. He will have a different bedroom, in a different place and, if all goes well, he will be so happy in that new place we won't see him again until Thanksgiving. 

It's a strange thing to hope for, that your child will be so content he won't feel the slightest need to come home. But I do hope for that. Well, I mostly hope for my less selfish moments when I'm thinking more of him and his well-being than I am of my own (luckily, that is most of the time). 

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to miss him like crazy. But at the same time I really hope to be missing him like crazy because that's what is supposed to come next. He's supposed to fly and we are supposed to re-paint the nest, get used to less noise and less garbage, and eventually find a way to live in and around and ultimately fill up the empty spaces. Over time, it will probably even all start to feel normal again, in a new-normal sort of way. 

It might take awhile, but we'll get there. This house has seen a lot of big changes and she's still standing. So are we.

I'm guessing that we will finally settle into that new-normal sometime around next June, just in time for him to come flying back for summer, bringing all of his noise and garbage and beloved quirks with him.  

And that's okay. We will still be here.

Happy Centennial, Sawyer House!
Thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Here's a confession for you. (It's actually not much of a confession because I don't consider this a secret, nor am I at all reluctant to share this information, but confession sounds so much more interesting than "mundane revelation" so I'm still going with "confession").


My earth shattering Tuesday morning confession is this: My 8 year old daughter still climbs into bed with us pretty much every single night.

Now, before you think this is about soliciting parenting advice or looking for all the latest and greatest techniques for getting your school-age child to sleep in their own bed at night, I need to make one thing clear.

I don't really care.

Superdad doesn't really care.

And for sure neither myself or Superdad care enough to do anything about it that might require we would actually have to do something in the middle of the night. So any technique involving one of us swinging our legs out of bed, opening our eyes, or marching a weeping child back to her own bed just ain't gonna happen.

We really don't care.

And the beauty of parenting your third child is you also honestly don't care what anyone else thinks. You could be shaking your head right now and muttering, "Good heavens, you need to get that child sleeping all night in her own bed! How will she ever go to camp? How will she ever go to college? Will her husband be joining all of you in 20 years? You cannot let this go on one minute longer!!"

And I would just smile and nod and say, "You may be right."

Which is my surefire strategy for dealing with any unsolicited advice. You may be right. You may not be right. We both win and I don't have to discuss it anymore. Or, if you want to try and discuss it further you will end up beating your head against a wall because my only response is going to continue to be an annoying Stepford-wifeish smile and the pleasantly robotic response of, "You may be right."

Sure, some of it is laziness. I'm not going to pretend that we don't care because having a 60 pound child arrive in your bed at 2am is all sunshine and roses. There are those nights that don't go so well. Nights when it feels like our small child has at least 70 different elbows and knees that keep appearing in both of our backs. Nights when our petite little angel snores like a truck driver or better yet, vocalizes all of her inner 8 year old angst in her sleep complete with unintelligible yelling, whimpering and occasionally frighteningly maniacal laughter. I'm not gonna lie, those nights can be unnerving.

Superdad and I will talk in whispers the next day about how we really "gotta do something about this" and we formulate plans that oddly enough always seem to involve more work for me than for him, and then we get to the middle of the night and all of those genius solutions go out the window in favor of doing nothing more than rolling over and making room for our noisy, thrashing, elbow-jab-wielding nighttime visitor.

We take our chances in the hopes of a few extra minutes of sleep.

So, yes, some it is laziness. But, at least for me, there is something else. There is another reason I haven't yet found the inner strength to exile my young daughter from our bed.

The truth is, I get it.

Annie has expressed more than once, "It's not fair. You and Daddy have somebody to sleep with. And when the boys were my age they slept together in the same room. You told me they pushed their beds right up next to each other just so they could be close to each other! And they could still sleep in the same room if they wanted to! I have nobody! I'm the only one who HAS to sleep all by myself!"

She's right.

And the thing is, you can create all the rituals you want, and stuff your child's bed full of comfort objects, and turn on cute nightlights with fairies on them but your child is not stupid. None of this is the same as another person. None of this is the same as lying tucked in between the two people you love most in the world. None of this is the same as the feeling of safety you get from knowing there is another living, breathing human being sharing the dark, ready to stand side by side with you in battle against any monsters that might emerge from the closet or under the bed.

When I was a little girl, I would frequently cross the hallway in the middle of the night to my older brother's room. He had bunk beds and didn't mind if I made my way to his lower bunk in the night. What he did mind was that I felt the need to wake him up to tell him that I was going to sleep in his other bed.

It was always the same, me waking him up to ask him if I could sleep in the bottom bunk. And him, sleepily answering in an exasperated whisper, "Yes! It's fine! Why do you have to wake me up? Just go to bed!"

I never bothered to try to explain to him that I had to wake him up and tell him I was there. How would he know he needed to protect me if he didn't know I was there?

We are created for connection. We are born with an innate preference for the presence of people we love, not their absence. Absence might possibly make the heart grow fonder, but only because it creates an ever-increasing desire and longing for the other person's presence. Not because the absence itself is so idyllic.

Lately I have been standing on the outside watching too many people I know struggling to come to terms with the worst, most permanent kind of absence. There really are no words that are adequate to comfort someone grieving the loss of a loved one, so I try very hard not to offer anything other than, I'm sorry...I'm so sad for you...I'm praying for you... And I make a silent vow to myself to keep saying those things and to keep praying for a very. long. time. So much longer than we like to believe is necessary.

Sometimes, on nights when I'm feeling as though it's time - time for Annie to work out her demons and find a way to sleep peacefully in her own bed - I offer lame platitudes to her. I tell her how I'm always with her, even when we are separated by a long hallway and two closed doors. I tell her that she has her Pinky Bear and her blankie and those will keep her warm and cozy. I tell her that the nightlight is a reminder that God is with her and she has nothing to be afraid of. I tell her and I tell her and I tell her...and her incredibly sage answer every time is...

But it's not the same.

And she's right. It is not the same.

I think of that each time I'm tempted to take my words of consolation farther. To talk about how our loved ones are always with us, that they live on in our memories, that their light and spirit is still alive and moving among us. Because as true as that may be... and as much as that may bring some small measure of comfort in certain moments... I still hear the unspoken words of a grieving heart, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes screaming to the heavens, crying out and wanting the world to know that...

It's not the same.

No, it's not.

Nothing is an adequate substitute for presence. And death steals presence. For that alone, it is difficult for us to forgive the design of this world.
~Rabbi David Wolpe