Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swallowed Alive by the Paper Tiger

[not from one of my kids: it's PreK_Paper_Tiger01 by TheArtGuy on Flikr]

This weekend my paper problem bit me in the -cough- posterior.

This may not resonate with many of you. It is my understanding that most adults in this world, particularly the adults who aspire to be productive members of society, do responsible things like filing away monthly statements, putting their car registration in the glove box the day it arrives, and getting a safe deposit box for critical documents like car titles, birth certificates, and Social Security cards.

I want to be a grown up. Really I do. But I haven't quite gotten the paper management part of that down. Instead, I have this complex system of grocery bags, shopping bags, and cardboard boxes that contain all manner of things. Receipts? check. Instruction manuals? check. Tax records? Check. What? You're looking for the charger for the new camera? Oh yeah, I've got it here in this basket.

The boxes/bags/baskets correlate roughly to seasons, or more specifically, domestic events to which we've invited people. This box is from when we cleaned up for Cecilie's birthday party, that basket is from when we cleaned up before Annika's baptism, oh yeah, and that big bag is from Christmas and when Annika was so sick.

Wait, don't touch that bag, that's papers I've already sorted and they're not urgent, they're just, you know, things that we want to keep for some reason or other.

Right, yes, I know that box is labeled 'Critical Papers.' But that's just instruction manuals for the kitchen appliances and a tool that I wasn't sure if we'd need to keep..... Oh really? You found Lars' birth certificate in there? See? It IS critical papers!

I think I should get points for at least not throwing things out. Except: of the last 18 months of insurance coverage, I could only prove I'd been covered for the six months between August 08 and February 09. I could only prove I'd owned the Explorer for the last 12 months, despite the fact that we bought it in October 03. But luckily I had an old registration card that proved my father owned the car before me. That was really helpful. Turns out that even my 'clearing out' efforts are sporadic enough to screw up any semblance of system we might have going on.

This weekend, I've had to track down insurance papers, birth certificates, old report cards, yearly tax statements, and the kids' social security cards. Believe it or not, I've managed to pin down most of it, or been able to prey upon the kindness of customer service agents to re-print certain documents.

But This. Is. Just. Ridiculous. Anyone got tips for helping me grow up?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The squirrel leap

The squirrel leap is a time honored Nilsen tradition. Here is a wintry example from a snow day last February:
With little to no fear, a Nilsen will catapult in to the unknown, come what may...
Watch the concentration in his eyes as he gets himself ready...
...and there he goes, with sound effects and everything!!!
...and when all the grown ups' arms are worn out it's time to use fixed assets...

Sailing Away

Last Saturday, Lars and I were invited by our good neighbor Jer to go sailing, in the boat that he built HIMSELF:
After a little bit of prep work, we're good to go...
It was an all round pleasant experience, as we were frollicking on the Potomac, near DC
I often wonder what little boys "see", and now I know.
This guy is all about the sailing, but at this point he was raptured, as a police boat "pulled over" a motor boat; that sort of madness would never happen on "Steady"...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ways of Seeing

My kids were at Camp Grandma last week. What started out as a 2-night sleepover so that we could get a big painting project finished at our house turned into a 5-day party, with Grandma & Grandpa providing donuts for breakfast, 3 trips to the park in a day, and late-night cuddle sessions for any and all takers.

Every morning I would call and ask them are my kids coming home to me today? and my 4-year old would giggle and say "maybe tomorrow, mama. Yep, I think maybe tomorrow." My six-and-three-quarters-old would responsibly tell me that she missed me soooooooooooo much, but that it "might work out for the best" if they stayed just one more night. And Annika? Well, she'd decided she was officially in the Big Kid Club, and she was going to hang with them, thanks.

So when I sat on my front steps last Wednesday and watched them run across the yard into my open arms, it was with a truly grateful heart. They had been gone long enough to really miss them. Long enough for me to be alone with my thoughts a little too often, long enough for me to start wandering into their rooms and re-making their beds, just to smell their pillows.

Most shockingly, they'd been gone long enough for me to see them, really see them, when they came home.

Five days won't change anyone into a teenager, or give a kid the space to grow 5 inches. But it will give a 6 year old a chance to seem impossibly long and lean, and to become all at once tender, thoughtful, and independent. Since she's been home, if her face is turned the right angle I begin to see so clearly the graceful teenager she will be in another six years, even as the evidence of the chubby cheeked toddler she was six years ago fades. I hear her comments, opinions and insights with new ears: not so much as comic relief, but as the words of a big kid, a school kid, with so much insight into her world.
Five days will give a four year old boy a chance to remember how much he loves cuddling his mama. More importantly, it will give him the chance to find his voice - to make himself heard over two very opinionated sisters. He grows into himself, and his return this week has shown me how quickly he is learning everything, and how quietly he keeps all that he knows close to his chest, just to surprise and delight me with a new letter sound or math fact.

Five days will give a baby a chance to become a toddler - one of the big kids. I watched her march across the lawn and the end of our babyhood couldn't have been any clearer. She wants to talk, she wants to be included, she wants the other two to RESPECT! her, and boy do they all make each other giggle.

It is rare we are given the gift of a changed perspective. I certainly had not expected that particular miracle from my weekend off. But a miracle is what it was. I sent them away, and when I got them back, I had different kids: different, because their mother had different eyes with which to see them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More than Enough

photo on Flikr by incurable_hippie

"The quality of our active lives depends heavily on whether we assume a world of scarcity or a world of abundance."
Parker J. Palmer The Active Life: A Spirituality of Work Creativity & Caring, 1999

I wrote a whole post yesterday - spent a long time writing it, actually - all about how I wasn't going to get what I wanted, and how grown up about it I was being.

So I hit 'publish post' and then re-read it. Mostly, it just sounded whiny. Sometimes thoughts are best left to one's journal, and yesterday's post was one of those times.

But, as with most mistakes, it did get me thinking in a more constructive vein. Surely I am the same person who posted this about working towards contentment, towards truly grasping how much I do have? How quickly we can turn towards focusing on all that we don't have, all the 'things' we want, and feel we deserve.

Weirdly, the next post in my little 'synchronicity' arc is abundance. I don't know, maybe that's synchronicity in itself. Clearly, I'm still working to wrap my head around the concept as well.


Fresh out of an experience of not getting what I want, of not having 'enough' to get what I want, it is a little tricky to hold forth on how all of us should be focusing on how much we have. I'm not feeling very....expansive, not today. But that is why today is the day.

Two weeks ago, the day I posted the brief link to Heather and The Extraordinary Ordinary, about contentment, I drove past the sign out front of our church, where they post the topic of that week's sermon. "More Than Enough." That's what it said. I knew I needed to hear this. So I went on my own, actually. Sat in the front row, and took notes like I was in English Lit 404.

The text was John 6:1-21, the story of the miracle of loaves and fishes - how Jesus fed the crowd with so little. Our minister talked about how of course you can look at this miracle as food for the body = food for the soul. But, he challenged me, what is the miracle here? Is it really just making a huge amount of food from very little?

Nope. The miracle is a changed perspective. In the course of the story, there is a conversion in the hearts of Jesus' followers: they transform from limiting what God can do (the disciples were apparently stressing about how much money it would take to feed all these folks) to seeing, and believing, there is enough for everyone. "The real miracle is a changed perspective."

I wonder if I could get that tattooed on my hand or something.

Ken Kovacs then went on to draw the parallel to the times we live in: how the whole world seems to be focused on there not being enough. If we focus on the glass half empty, we focus on conserving, because soon it will be gone. "We focus on the perceived lack, because soon there will be none." Conversely, if we are focusing on the glass half full, the assumption is fullness, sufficiency: there is something left to share.

By focusing on scarcity, on lack, by constantly worrying that we need to conserve, we are limiting the possibility of enough: we are constricting our hearts. You know the phrase "what would you do if you were not afraid?" How about asking yourself "what would you do if there was always enough?" What if you lived in a universe of abundance?

"This is the kind of miracle we can all experience." No matter what your background, your beliefs, your doubts: surely we can exercise our faith in abundance, instead of the fear of not enough.

(For those of you who are interested, Rev. Kovacs published this particular sermon on his blog Hermeneia. He's an incredible thinker. You won't be sorry you visited.)
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