The art of leaving things undone

 “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” — Lin Yutang, Chinese writer

Poet Jill Briscoe added that letting things go not only simplifies our daily existence, but the skill also opens us up “so that the greater things can be done.” For me, those paramount deeds are maturing in my spirituality, and in my roles as wife and mother.

Houston & Gabriel love their homemade Indian headdresses. (Click to see November – Part 1 pics.)

Sometimes I make leaps, while other times I dodder along, baby-stepping it or just falling down flat. But practicing the art of leaving things undone — however futile an effort it often seems — has helped me regain a sense of strength and sanity I had been (intermittently) lacking. Thank you, Lord, for helping me focus more on the essentials.

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In fact, I have on occasion been tempted to give up this blog. It has always served as a therapeutic way for me to vent, celebrate, reflect and update, all while helping me stay on top of my writing skills. Considering all the time it takes away from other things, I have questioned whether the blog and gallery were worth the hassle.

But a chapter in “52 Things Kids Need From Their Mom” points out that a family blog is more like a letter to your loved ones. The author, Angela Thomas, goes so far as to say that it “will become the treasure that helps shape (your kids’) lives and the way they parent their children.”

I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think the boys will one day cherish the reminiscences, hopefully giving them a better understanding of their Mommy and Daddy as people and parents, as well as a peek into their early childhood and a few laughs to boot.

Zeke dons his fine-looking homemade pilgrim hat.

Travels

Daddy had some job-training in Raleigh and the 3 Amigos and I decided to travel with him to the Capital City and spend Sunday night, 1/22. This was the boys’ first time in a hotel and they loved the entire experience, from eating in the hotel restaurant and the guy buffing the hallway floors, to the TV at the foot of the bed and the full-length mirror on the closet.

The fancy elevator made the biggest impression on the boys. Initially, Zeke was scared of it and made me walk the stairs with him a time or two, but by the end, he was overcame his fears.

That Monday, I took the kids on a driving tour of NC State and the capitol grounds. They still thought the elevator was cooler. Gabriel even said he wanted to move to Raleigh just so we could have an elevator. Houston concurred it was a nice city, but that he didn’t want to move there because we wouldn’t have a DVD player. I guess they think the Marriott is the only place to live in Raleigh.

Then Gabriel spent his first solo weekend in the mountains with Granny and Grumps from 1/27-1/29. Daddy drove all the boys up to the half-way meeting place on Friday for a big family dinner, and then Houston, Zeke and I picked up Gabriel on Sunday after church. Granny had nothing but praise for G-man’s behavior.

During the hands-on Thanksgiving lesson, Miss Jessie teaches the crew about maize.

Gabriel had a blast, but said that two nights away was enough and that he was ready to get home. It was also really touching to see how much Houston and Zeke missed their beloved bro. They pined for him much more than I thought they would. Too cute.

Family focus

As mentioned in the last blog, we’re attempting to make the most of the more limited time that Daddy’s home. This, of course, takes a little planning and sticking to the agenda, but also flexibility when weather, health, naps and anything else life can throw at us gets in the way. Here are a few of the basics:

  • Friday family dinner night: This is sometimes a struggle, but it is definitely a battle worth fighting. Our new tradition is to discuss topics that the boys have been collecting throughout the week. We totally forgot to do that for this Friday’s mealtime, so we had to wing it and talked about our highs and lows for the day instead.
  • Stephen and I are determined to be more diligent in doing date nights. Our hope is to have at least one every couple of months. As of now, our first night out is on the calendar for a belated Valentine’s dinner. No kids, lots of romance … what’s not to love?!?
  • Stephen will continue with boys-only fun, but he’s also working one-on-one time into the mix. He still owes Gabriel his pool date from the second “diamond” competition, and Houston, who won the latest round, also wants to go swimming. Gabe’s outing is now on the calendar.
  • Of course, family jaunts are crucial and have to be woven into weekends when possible.

Gabriel shows off his “caught fish” from our makeshift teepee. (Click to see November – Part 2 pics.)

Last Saturday when Gabriel was away, Stephen and I decided to take advantage of the lighter load and took the boys to the greenway for some fresh air and exercise. Houston rode his bike (quite expertly, I must say) along the paved trail, and Zeke enjoyed the lakeside views while on foot or from his leisurely spot in the the red wagon.

Then we did Lebanese fare for lunch. Houston and Zeke devoured everything from stuffed grape leaves and hummus to spanakopita and falafel. Granted, the boys are used to this kind of food, since this joint is one of our favorite restaurants, but I think that their one-eighth Arab blood probably has something to do with it, as well. A successful family outing all around.

Education

Due to her spring semester classes, Miss Jessie is here for schooling on our MOPS days. And since the church has pretty great children’s programming, we’ve been doing an alternating schedule of who (Houston or the twins) goes to MOPS with me and who stays home for pre-K fun with Miss Jessie. This gives the MOPS kid(s) some less competitive Mommy time, while allowing Miss Jessie to do really focused, age-appropriate activities for the at-home kid(s).

On 1/31, I visited a Classical Conversations community with my pal, Christie. CC is a method of homeschooling, but the families who utilize this classical model of education meet once a week at different campuses (usually churches) around town for tutorials. This gives kids the experience of learning in a classroom setting and allows them opportunities to make friends. Parents also use the gatherings to organize co-ops, play groups, field trips and the like.

A group photo I snapped to use for the grandparents’ Christmas gifts.

Christie, a former private and public school teacher, has helped me shed much of the self-doubt that had been creeping in regarding elementary homeschooling the boys. Even though that has always been our plan, the thought of it now that Houston is a rising kindergartner was becoming a little scary. But learning about CC and its wonderful local community (many of whom are Westover members) is helping me regain my confidence.

I’m still trying to cover all my bases by simultaneously looking into magnet schools. My county actually has an impressive list of alternative public schools. Of most interest are the Spanish immersion, science and technology, and Montessori academies. I will be attending an upcoming magnet fair, as well as a CC informational meeting, and then we’ll see how things pan out from there.

Health

Gabriel and Zeke recently had a check-up for their cough-variant asthma, and the specialist said we can start weaning them off their antihistamines and inhalers in April, but she wants them to back on the prescriptions in August for one more season. The hope is that they will have outgrown this type of asthma (a very common occurrence in kids) and that they can kick the meds for good in spring 2013.

Last Thursday evening, Gabriel started puking around dinnertime and the spell lasted till just before midnight. I assume it was some sort of short-lived stomach bug because he was doing much better by the next morning. Luckily, none of the rest of the family caught it, and G-man has gotten back his appetite and is doing great.

Gabe still wears the pantyhose from a fun Miss-Jessie game.

Phonics

This Sunday at a restaurant, Houston used his mad phonics skills to sound out “exit.” Amazing to see your kid actually read a word all on his own. Daddy says he also spelled out “buffet” and then expertly figured out what the word said, despite the fact it doesn’t read the way it sounds. Smarty britches.

What’s in a name?

As mentioned previously, Stephen recently encountered another kid named Zeke at Chick-fil-A. Soon thereafter, a lady at MOPS told me she has a 10-year-old son named Zeke, short for Ezekiel and everything. Then there’s getzeek.com (a website similar to Groupon), Disney Channel’s “Zeke and Luther,” and Zeke the little bro on the PBS show “Sid the Science Kid.” Who knows, maybe “Zeke” will end up being the next “Aiden” or “Ethan.”

Now, it’s not a stretch to say that there’s often another “Gabriel” running around at the places we visit on our adventures. His name used to rank in the 30s of top 100 boys names, but apparently has moved its way up into the 20s. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to mind.

We have yet to cross paths with another “Houston.” In fact, it’s just a weird enough name that people often mistake him for the increasingly trendy name “Hudson.” I’m sure we’ll run across a “Houston” sooner or later … probably whenever we visit Daddy’s home state of Texas.

2 thoughts on “The art of leaving things undone

  1. Well, here is one grandparent who loves this blog! Keep’em coming. I think the school thing will work itself out and probably will evolve over the years into something which isn’t even apparent now. In Virginia there is a bill on the floor of the General Assembly to let home-schooled kids join after school activities. Hug my little Indians now but we will there tomorrow, nothing happens, to give them lots of hugs and kisses!

  2. Remember the “nothing happens” comment? That definitely belongs to Nanny. Dina & I are convinced it was probably one of the best sayings that she had.

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