Coming up for Air

I woke up this morning and did something I haven't been able to do for over three weeks. I took in air through my nose. Gingerly, I sat up in bed and wondered where my head was. I couldn't feel it. I mean, it didn't hurt. I leaned over. Ah. There it was. Still painful. I swallowed. Yep. Still have a throat and it still hurts, too. And my neck and shoulders? Check. They're there. But I'm making progress. I sort of feel better.

I wandered downstairs to the kitchen, hoping that Michael's arrival home yesterday would mean that three thoughtful teenaged boys cleaned the middle floor when I went to bed early. Maybe not. It was trashed. And I do mean trashed. As in no one did the dishes or took the trash out and the dog had a party while we slept. Who's training these kids anyway? I offer my sincere apologies to my future daughters-in-law. I'm trying really. They just don't get it. Something about conference championships and Sports Center. They are flirting with the potential for me to give new meaning to March Madness.

March_2008_007 Oh, dear. I asked a friend recently how long we'd been sick.  I 've lost track of time; I truly have. She thinks it started right after Ash Wednesday. I think she's right. Some year, I'm actually going to get to pick my Lent.  My grand plan for Lent was to declutter. I was going to spend the whole time ridding myself of stuff which is weighing me down and impeding my family's spiritual progress towards getting to Mass on time heaven. I did manage to begin to gather "stuff" into big black bags to give away. And I did make one "clutter truck" pick up date. There's another tomorrow. And I've read all sorts of great goings-on in the de-cluttering world.

Rebecca got me going ( in real life, no less) and she has faithfully patted my head and told me not to worry as I've bemoaned my stalled progress. Sarah inspired my clothing purge and I'm really considering the sock thing, too. There's nothing like a nesting mom to truly give us all a kick in the tushy. My children are hoping Emily will deliver soon, lest they have nothing left to wear. Seriously, I need to go back through and pare everyone down to fewer outfits. I still cannot manage the clothes in this house despite the huge volume we gave away.

Bless her heart, Cheryl has done what I was so hoping someone would do: she's begun the schoolroom organization discussion. The reality is that no matter what one thinks of Peter Walsh or all the other organizational experts out there, there is both a quantitative and qualitative difference in the homes of large homeschooling families.[Incidentally, speaking of Peter Walsh, does this clutter make my butt look fat? Yes, it must. Because when I lived in a much smaller house and had far fewer things, I was much thinner. Of course, I was fifteen years younger,  had one quarter the number o f children and none of them played sports yet and we didn't homeschool--but still, I was skinny.Must be the clutter.]

First, there's the "large" part of large, homeschooling families.  Last summer, my daughter was the recipient of three pairs of flip-flops. Why, I asked, does anyone need three pairs of flip-flops? There was a great sale and for a dollar a pair, why not? Here's why not: There are ten people in my home. Each person has two feet. If every one of them had three pairs of flip-flops, I would have to find places for 60 shoes. And that's just the flip-flops. Now, add the everyday play shoes. Everyone needs at least one pair. Then church shoes. Four boys need soccer cleats and the same four boys need indoor soccer shoes. Three boys need basketball shoes. One boy needs football cleats. My husband says he needs both a pair of brown work shoes and a pair of black work shoes. Two girls need ballet flats. One needs jazz shoes and tap shoes.  We've just added pointe shoes to the mix. The rain boots for every child work as snow boots with heavy socks. In the summer, we'll add sandals. I haven't mentioned my shoes. I'm sure I've missed some other essential shoes and  I cannot do the math. Someone let me know how many shoes that is. Don't count the flip-flops. No one needs one more just because she can have one more.

The truth is big families do need more stuff. Shall I count pairs of underwear for you? Or socks perhaps? But we live in houses designed for average-sized families and so we must be more careful than the average family about what we bring into the house and how we store it when it's here. We don't get rid of the baby toys and the toddler toys when people outgrow them because there are babies and toddlers waiting for them, thank God. And we buy the big kid toys to add to the collection. We have a whole lot of toys. Still, do we need this many? Can we pare down the toys to nearly nothing and opt for wide open spaces instead?

Now, take into account the "Home" part of homeschooling. We are here all day. My school aged children do not leave for six hours a day and allow me to tidy and straighten and purge and clean. Indeed, they stay here and take things out and eat lunch at home, thereby messing up the kitchen again. Because they learn here at home, we have things at home that many families do not have. We have more books than I can count. We have paper in every color under the sun. We have a fully stocked craft shelf (which is currently spilling onto the floor). We have map puzzles. We have cuisenaire rods. We have sandpaper letters. We have Latin lessons on DVD. And we have notebooks. Ah, yes, we make notebooks for every unit. We have nature study notebooks, picture study notebooks, sacrament preparation notebooks. Shall I multiply the notebooks like I did the shoes? Should I change my teaching style to one of consumable workbooks which can be thrown away when completed? Because I'm telling you what, no one wants to part with his or her notebook. And neither do I. I'm glad Cheryl has started us thinking about what to keep and what to purge in terms of home education. My problem is that I do not want to buy resources again and yet, not everything is in use all the time. The simple solution would be to box and store but I have a big house with very little storage space. That is, we have fairly large rooms and quite a few of them, but no attic space and little basement storage space. Everything is right out there in the open. And just so you know, my learning room no longer looks anything like this. But hope springs eternal and one day it will again.

What about the garage? Glad you asked. Yesterday, I told those charming teenaged boys that we were going to spend just a half hour clearing the trash out the garage. I promised it wouldn't hurt and I promised I'd keep it short. Then, I knocked over 4 gallons of white paint. I'm not going to waste time and energy wondering who put a contractor's sized vat of white paint in the garage without putting the top on securely. It took us more than half an hour to get out of the garage yesterday. And that's about all I had in me. I wanted to de-clutter for Lent. I got the flu instead.

So, I'm going to go drop more grapefruit seed extract down my throat and squirt more tea tree oil into my sinus passages. I'm going to make another cup of very hot tea with honey and lemon. I'm going to wake these children who don't understand that even homeschoolers need to adjust to the time change. And I'm going to keep on keeping on. Because, by golly, we have nearly two weeks left of Lent and I'm going to clear out the clutter. I am.