Please be forewarned. This is perhaps the longest post I have written on here. It is more of an essay. 🙂 Have fun reading it:
A Day in my Life. by Miriam Lein, wife, mother, teacher, house manager, seamstress, cook and above all a child of God. Dedicated to all my friends who are also all of these things, and to my two mothers- Mom, and Mom Lein, who lived through these moments and survived.
I awake in the small hours of the morning. It is raining. A voice in my groggy mind tries to convince my body to get out of bed. The windows are still open. I consider waking John and asking him if he’s closed them even though I am pretty sure he hasn’t. The only reason for asking him would be so that he would then feel obligated to roll out of bed to do it. Even in my sleepy state I know this is unfair. But despite the obvious facts that my brain is actually functioning, I fall back asleep.
A bit later my mind drags itself out of sleep again. This time it is my bladder that is able to force me out of bed. Since I am now up, I go around the house and close the windows. Thankfully the rain is soft and nearly vertical in its fall, meaning the house is not soaked from the open windows.
I crawl back into bed and try to find the comfortable position I had been in. I am unsuccessful, but after a few moments of listening to the quieting sounds of the rain I fall back into a gentle sleep.
Out of deep sleep I am awakened to a soft knock on the door. Little hands fumble with the doorknob and soft footsteps make their way to my bedside. I hesitate before turning around. I have heard these noises in the night before and sat up to look around only to find the room completely empty. This time Elise, complete with blanket, stands there. “Mommy, I had a bad dream,” she says softly. My mind does a quick calculation of the actual scariness of the dream based entirely on her tone of voice. After factoring in how tired I am I send her back to bed. A few moments later, just as I am slipping back into sleep I hear a much louder “Mommy!” from right outside the door. “What?” I yell back in my most exasperated tone, realizing that John is probably awake now too. “I need to change clothes, I am uncomfortable in these.” I remember that when we had come home from Grandma’s last night she had fallen asleep in her dress and so had gone to bed in it. “Elise, just go back to bed,” I answer. “You don’t need to change.” Elise starts to argue with her usual “But . . .” John pipes in at this point. “Elise, you can change clothes in the morning.” That works, as it usually does when Daddy’s voice is used, and Elise begins her trek back to bed, trailing whines all the way. I hold my breath, waiting for a sharp cry to pierce the night meaning that Will has been awoken by this interchange. Nothing. . . I let out my breath and settle back down to sleep. Just as I am about to succeed at falling back to sleep I hear him. One cry, but the one that says, “I am hungry, come feed me.” I glance at the clock. It is 6:00 am. Oh, I hope he doesn’t decide to stay up. Despite my mind reminding me of the facts: It is still dark, he is probably still tired, he will most likely go back to sleep and then sleep in, giving you more rest . . . I let out a heavy sigh and drag my feet towards the door. This is all of course for the benefit of my husband. Someone needs to know how miserable I am.
Will is not very happy, which is a good sign, because it means after he fills his tummy he will go back to sleep. I curl up in the corner of the couch and wait for Elise to join me as she usually will if she hears me. Amazingly she doesn’t, and as I sit there I realize that not only did we put her to bed with her clothes on, but she had no diaper either. She is probably wet, and that is the reason she wanted to change. After feeding and burping Will, I put him down awake in his cradle. He seems content, so I close his door and return to Elise’s room. She is still awake and as I suspected wet. As I help her change clothes and move to a dry spot on the bed I apologize to her for not understanding what she needed because I was too tired. She is very understanding and never once asks if it is time to get up, which means she is also tired and will sleep more this morning.
Since Will has made no noises, I finish up with Elise and head to bed myself. I wake briefly when John gets up to go to work, and then later as I hear Elise making noises upstairs, but doze until about 9. Realizing I need a shower, and since Will is still sleeping, this would be an ideal time to take one, I get up. Before I do, I pray over the day. Elise hears me moving around and comes and joins me in the bedroom. After I am dressed I get her some clothes to put on and then put her breakfast on the table. At this point, I hear Will’s usual happy morning noises and go to get him up. He nurses and I take the moment to read a bit. Elise comes to interrupt me and asks when we are going to do whatever we are going to do today. Soon. Of course the next question is what are we going to do today. When I explain all the tasks I have: Wal-Mart trip, laundry, dishes, sewing, write bills and maybe school, she decides to put in her two cents. “I want to do school before we go to Wal-Mart” No. “But, Mom . . .” Stop arguing.
After my breakfast, checking email, grabbing my grocery list, filling the washer, getting us all ready to go, and fielding a few more arguments as to why we should do school first, we load up into the car. Elise’s hair is not done, but at least she’s dressed and fairly clean. Will is awake and happy as long as I give him the attention he wants. We wander through Wal-Mart’s aisles and I buy several things I hadn’t meant to, but that I think would be useful. This is a trap I fall into all the time, but when I review my purchases, there is only one that is completely unnecessary, and I am still glad a bought it. It is a cake decorating book. The other spur of the moment things are shoes for the wedding for Elise and more children hangers as I don’t have enough to hang up Will’s clothes.
Elise sits in the cart looking at the cake decorating book and I began to fill it with the groceries for the week. Soon all available space is used and Elise has to get out to walk. Will is awake, but fairly happy while I am in his line of sight. “Can I have one of those coloring books Mom?” No. “When can I have one?” Maybe next time. “But mom, they won’t have them next time.” I’m sure they will. “Mom, can we get doughnuts today?” Not today. “But mom, I want doughnuts.” No. Don’t argue. “Mom, can I have some more snacks for the snack basket.” No. You have some already. “But mom all I have is 3 things.” Well, you need to finish those things. “But Mom . . .” Quit whining. “Did you buy white and orange cheese mom?” Yes, I did. “I want it together mom.” Yes, I got that kind, you are looking at something different. “Make sure we get vanilla ice cream mom.” Not today Elise. By this time I think I am just saying no because I am tired of her asking for things. Elise’s voice is getting whinier and whinier. “But mom . . .” Elise, I can’t get it today, I am buying other ice cream that has to go in the freezer for Aunt Meg’s shower and I won’t have room for vanilla. “But Mom, I want vanilla.” No. “Can I have popsicles then?” No, Elise. There is not room in the freezer. “When can I have them?” Maybe next time. “But mom . . .” At this point I pull Elise aside and bend down to her level. Elise, you are sounding like a spoiled rotten brat. “Mom, I don’t like the sound of that.” But, you are Elise. When you speak, you need to use your nice voice. I don’t like the whiny voice. Unfortunately this does not work as Elise continues to whine. I tell her that she can’t say anything else unless it is in a nice voice. She is quiet for about a minute. “Mom when are we going to be done?” she says in yes, you guessed it, a whiny voice. Elise, what did I say, can you use your nice voice? “But when are we going to be done mom?” she repeats in a very slightly less whiny tone. Soon.
As we check out, the lady in front of us is using a gift card that doesn’t work. The cashier is busy for awhile. I am usually patient in check-outs, or try to be, but today my nerves feel like they are worn thin. At least Will is still smiling, though I know he should be sleeping by this time and isn’t. Finally it is our turn. Elise asks for candy. No. She asks for a toy for Harvey. No. She asks for a pen with a light on top. No. I remind her that I have already told her to stop asking for things because the answer is no. As we head out to the car Will’s eyes start to close and we step out into sprinkles and a cold gust of air. I load the kids in first to keep them dry and then try to fit all the groceries in the back realizing I should have unloaded the stroller and other things that are still in there. Will starts to cry.
I return the cart to the cart corral and get in the car and began to talk to Will in a soothing voice. I am shocked to see that it is almost lunch time. Will has not eaten since he got up and is most likely hungry as well as tired. He falls asleep before we reach home though, which is good, giving me time to unload groceries. Elise is helpful and opens and closes the door for my three trips to the car and back. We also have a package, which she is excited to open. “Let me put away the groceries first, Elise.” I squeeze the grocery items into the pantry and refrigerator. “Mom, when we eat lunch can we watch a movie?” Let me think about it Elise. A few seconds later. “Mom, can we watch a movie while we eat lunch.” Elise, I don’t know yet. “But you have to think about it.” “When will you tell me if we can mom?” We’re not going to do that today Elise. “But mom . . .”
After we open the package and admire Will’s outfit for the wedding, we put another load in the washer and take a load to fold. Elise “helps.” Will wakes up. Elise says she is going to keep folding while I feed him. I get him out of his carseat and change his diaper and sit at the computer to feed him. Two minutes after Will starts to eat the doorbell rings. Oh no, I think, who can that be? Rather than disturb Will I call for Elise to see who it is. I know this isn’t the safest method, but Elise is already running through the living room shouting at the top of her lungs, “Mom! Someone’s here.” “See who it is,” I answer. Just then the door opens and the familiar voice of Mandie (my sister) says “hello?” Oh, yes. Why do I always forget that Mandie comes to do Chemistry with me on Mondays. She walks upstairs where I tell her I haven’t made lunch yet, so she goes back down to do her school while she waits. Elise comes up and informs me she is done folding because she needs to give her fingers a rest. After going through a list of things she’d like to do—a movie, play her games, play the wii—and I answer no to all of them she gets frustrated and asks “What can I do, mom?” Frustrated I give her a list of things she can do. She finally settles on making a craft for Aunt Mandie. She has already checked with Mandie to see if she’ll play with her. Mandie says she has to do school.
Will finishes eating and I take him downstairs and put him in his seat. Thankfully he is happy despite his short nap. I walk into my kitchen to make lunch and am frustrated with the mess that remains untouched there. I take the few minutes to empty the dishwasher and refill it, and am satisfied with the end result. Deciding on opening a can of soup for lunch, I start that and slice some of the new orange and white cheese and get out some crackers. Elise has been asking for soup for days now and decides that she doesn’t like either of my choices. Mandie picks chicken tortilla. When we sit down to eat, Elise decides she does like the soup, but eats very little of it.
The phone rings. It is Nana (John’s mom). We talk for a few minutes about our impending trip to Branson. I am holding Will by this point, because he is no longer happy sitting in his chair. After I hang up the phone I change a stinky diaper, set Will down in his carseat and get the stuff together to do Chemistry. As Mandie tries to figure out problems Elise runs in and out of the room screaming and laughing as she throws a ball for Harvey the cat. Though she is having fun, our concentration is slipping. She’s already asked to watch a movie and I said no. Finally getting desperate I tell her to start getting ready for nap. “But mom . . .” You are being too noisy Elise, if you can play quietly for a little bit then you can stay up for awhile. “I’ll go play upstairs,” she decides. Good idea. This only lasts a little bit though before more screams come piercing through the air. “Elise,” I call upstairs, now getting desperate. “You can play your games for a little bit.” “Yay, thank you Momma!” I hear from upstairs. Sometimes I wonder if all my answers to her are based on how my attitude is at the time. All the same, sometimes we just have to survive.
Working on Chemistry and rocking Will’s carseat with my foot, we work in a now quiet house. Will falls asleep and Mandie and I finish out our hour of work. Will wakes up at the end of our time and I pick him up to nurse him again. Mandie leaves. Mandie comes back looking for her keys. She looks all over while I give her suggestions from the couch where I am nursing Will. I have already called up to Elise to tell her to come down for nap. She asked politely to finish the maze she was on, and so I said yes. She comes down while Mandie is still searching and I ask her if she has seen Mandie’s keys. Without saying a word she walks directly to the couch, lifts the dictionary that Mandie was using and hands her the keys. Oh, the mysteries of 4 year olds.
I send Elise to the bathroom after our usual conversation trying to discover when was the last time she went. It usually ends with: Well, go try anyway. Harvey the cat comes downstairs wearing a headband with a bow around his belly. Elise, did you do that? “Yes, but it is not tight.” Harvey doesn’t seem to mind it, but when Elise goes to pet him he flashes his teeth at her. He seems a bit exasperated with her, so I remove the bow. “Mom!” now comes the outburst. “I wanted that on him. Why did you take it off?” Elise, just go to bed. “But when can we put it back on him.” Not now, just go to bed. “But . . .” Elise continues to whine as I remind her to get a book to read. Since I have to remind her one too many times and she is still crying about the bow, I tell her she’s lost her chance to read. “But mom, I don’t like it when you do that!” Well, it happened because you were whining and not obeying quickly. “But I’ll be good now.” It is too late now. “But mom . . .” I leave as Elise wails at the top of her lungs. She finally stops on threat of a spanking and begins her usual naptime schedule. This consists of resting and then every 10 to 15 minutes (getting closer together the longer she is in there) of asking if she can get up yet. No. Not yet. Stop asking, I’ll tell you when. “But how many minutes?” I don’t know. Just lay your head down. I think that I need to set some more ground rules for naptime and stick with them. This is getting ridiculous. Will is through all of this sleeping in the swing as he had the hiccups and was grumpy. When I put him in there he was asleep within 5 minutes. Instead of typing I should be sleeping too.
I head downstairs and tell Elise yet again that it is not time to get up. I settle for setting the timer for 15 minutes if she lays her head down the whole time. I head to my bedroom and pull out my devotion books. If I don’t do this now it may not get done today. I was surprised to read the prayer that I was to pray for Elise today. It was on selfishness. Here it is:
After praying and doing a bit of Bible reading, I review my day so far in prayer with the Lord. I realize that there is a lot I need to work on, and I need to adjust my attitude a bit as well. I then get up and finish folding the clothes Elise and I had started. I have a pile to put away in her room so I go to see if I can do it without disturbing her. She is quiet so I think for a moment she has fallen asleep, but then I hear her voice talking behind her closed door. A door she closed herself. Hmmm. I open the door and a little head plops quickly on the pillow. Inwardly I sigh. Too long have I pretended that I fall for this trick, too long have I let her get away with this disobedience just to avoid a battle. And so today I ask myself: if I won’t fight this battle, who will? I put away the clothes and then reprimand Elise and explain that because of her disobedience she will have to have 5 more minutes put on the timer and this time she must keep her head down. Elise lets out the highest pitched scream you can imagine. I do a quick inward decision to not spank her for the scream and merely warn her that if she responds that way again she will get a spanking because that is an inappropriate response. She tries to convince me that now she will be good, but I tell her she’ll still have to get the 5 minutes added. After she finally lays her head down, I add the minutes to the timer and get myself a snack. I have many things that need doing, but the most pressing one is probably sewing on Elise’s flower girl dress.
And so, after finishing my granola bar while answering email, I head to the nursery where my sewing machine is set up. Will is still asleep upstairs in the swing. As soon as I am ready to get started the timer dings and Elise gets up. She wants a snack. She’s seen me eating the chocolate granola bars and wants one. After taking one bite, she says that isn’t what she wants after all. I finish the granola bar for her and give her an apple instead. She is allowed to play computer games after naptime providing her room is clean. It isn’t and she is convinced it is too messy to clean up herself, so she’ll forgo the games today.
I sit down to sew. A few minutes later Elise comes down to inform me that Will is done with his nap and crying upstairs. I finish the seam I’m working on and go up to get him. I glance at the clock and am shocked to see that Will has been sleeping nearly two hours. Where did all the time go? He is not actually crying, but is indeed awake, so I get him up and sit down to feed him at the computer. I rejoice in the simple pleasure of being able to use my right hand to play solitaire while I hold him with my left. There are other more useful things I could do while nursing, but none of them easy. Plus, I refuse to allow myself to feel bad for doing nothing constructive while nursing, since that in itself is a much needed part of my day, and I can use the rest it brings as well.
It is nearly 4:00. I have already checked my dinner plans to calculate when to start supper. I still have some time. Elise wants to do some school. Usually I plan it in more, but this day has been a bit overwhelming and the week is already going to be school free at least two days when we go out of town to Branson. So, I put Will down to happily play with his toys and do some workbooks with Elise. She does a great job, and then when we finish I take Will downstairs to do some more sewing. I set him on a blanket on the floor and sit down to sew. As I piece together Elise’s bodice I wonder if I spent as much time considering how to help Elise be kinder and use better tones of voice as I do helping her learn to read, how much closer we would be to our goal. Do I even have a goal? One that is laid out? The pastor had talked some about this on Sunday. I need to put some more thought into it. Will remains happy long enough for me to sew only two seams. Oh well. Two more seams closer to being done, and they weren’t easy ones anyway.
As soon as I pick Will up he instantly quiets and begins to look around from his new vantage point on my shoulder. I don’t blame him for wanting to get off the floor. Hmmm, what can I do now? I check the clock and it is almost time to start supper. So I take the few minutes remaining to sit with Will on the couch and enjoy some one on one time complete with chuckles and coos. Elise joins in with some wild noises and jumping up and down which gets big smiles from her brother. Will loves to watch her.
Soon it is time to cook supper. I put Will in his seat and Elise informs me that she is helping me tonight. I have to admit I am not overjoyed at the prospect, but once begun, the dinner preparations proved to be a fun time between the two of us. Will was not too overjoyed to be left out, so I ended up going back and forth between holding him and putting him down when I needed two hands instead of one. Once the dinner went into the oven, noodles were boiling on the stove and the dishwasher had been unloaded I sat down again. Will was now getting more grumpy and I realize he needs another nap. This last nap of the afternoon is always the hardest to get him to give in to sleep. I sit down at the computer (after making sure the noodles were done and turning them off). I rock him in one arm while playing solitaire with the other. The sound of John’s motorcycle comes through the window. A few minutes later he comes up the stairs. “Dinner’s in the oven, and I’m trying to get Will to sleep,” I inform him. After a brief discussion of our plans for the evening—I will be watching Dancing With the Stars—he makes a phone call and ends up going out to my brother’s for supper and a movie. His brother Mark is in town and he wants to spend some time with him.
I have to admit, since I am being honest here that I am a little bothered that he won’t be eating the supper I cooked or be here this evening. Even though he wasn’t going to watch the show with me I enjoy him there and it helps to have an extra hand with the kids after my work doing it alone all day. But by the time he walked out of the door, I am OK with it. I am truly glad he is getting another evening with his brother since Mark will soon be leaving for Iraq and it will be awhile before we’ll see him again.
I have to finish the supper preparations now and Will is not going to sleep. I give up and put him in the swing. Finishing up the supper, Elise and I sit down to eat and I hear Will begin to voice his dislike of being abandoned. I get up and get him and sit down to nurse him while we eat. Have you ever eaten spaghetti one handed? Let’s just say my shirt will need a good washing after this. Elise eats all her spaghetti and chicken but refuses to eat the garlic bread. She wants honey on it, and when I explain that you can’t do that with this bread and she should try it to see if she likes it, she says that she has tried it before. She tries a bite regardless and again says she doesn’t like it. Oh well, I’m not going to force her to eat fatty, buttery bread if she doesn’t want to.
Because she has finished the rest of her food, she is now ready for dessert. By long standing arrangement, if she finishes her meal she will get dessert, if she doesn’t finish she gets nothing else that night. I don’t really have any dessert prepared for tonight so we settle for a chocolate kiss and 3 marshmallows. Will gets put back in the swing, still awake, though he dozed through some of his nursing.
I have half an hour until the show starts. I have reached the time of night when I am ready to clock out and start losing interest in doing anything worthwhile. But I decide to do a little more sewing. Elise is given the job of watching the clock to let me know when it is time to turn on the TV. I sew a few more seams before realizing I’ve made a mistake that will require tearing out. I spend the rest of my time trying to find the seam ripper. I finally find it and ask Elise what time it is. It is 7:01 pm on the clock that runs slow. Oh, we’re late! We hurry upstairs and turn on the show. I am disappointed to see I’ve missed the first dance. While I try to hear what I’ve missed Elise keeps pestering me for food. She’s hungry still. I tell her she can have more noodles but she has to wait until a commercial break. From then on my mood goes downhill. I’m telling you this because I am going to be honest. At least Will has gone to sleep.
Elise gets her noodles and gets to see Jane Seymour dance tonight, which is her favorite. We of course, again have the conversation about her being Dr. Quinn. It goes something like this: “Mom, is this the one that looks like Dr. Quinn?” Yes. “Is Dr. Quinn real?” No. “But, she is Dr. Quinn.” Elise she is an actor. She plays Dr. Quinn. Her name is Jane Seymour. “But is she real?” Sigh. Every night it goes the same and every night I still see that she fails to grasp what an actor is.
Elise is still hungry, or so she says. No, she can’t have a snack from the snack basket. Why don’t you eat your apple that is still sitting there? Will wakes up and I nurse him. Soon I send Elise down to get a book for reading. She already got dressed for bed before the show. She returns and we watch one more dance and then I read her her book. I rush through the end because the show is coming back on. For once I skipped some words without her realizing it. She watches one more dance with me and then we begin the rigamarole of bedtime. Go to bed now Elise. “I wanted to watch two more dances, not one.” No. Go to bed. “I’m still hungry.” No. Go to bed. “But mom . . .” Elise get in bed now or you will get a spanking. She slowly starts for the stairs, but doesn’t really go until I get up and start down. When she starts to run, I head back to my chair. As I try and watch the next dance Elise’s voice comes up from downstairs. “Mom, I want to stay with you.” No. “Mom . . .” Elise is this important? “I need my light on.” I was using her extension cord for the sewing machine. (You have to know our house to realize why this is necessary.) I call down that I’ll bring the cord in a minute. At the next commercial break I rush downstairs and get the cord and take it to Elise’s room. I sit on the bed and pray with her. We talk a bit about our trip tomorrow to Branson and then I try to leave the room. As soon as I walk out Elise calls me back. “Can you turn some music on for me?” No, you do it yourself. “Ummm, can you, ummm, can you get me some books?” No, you do it yourself. “But last time you got me some.” I was still in the room then, now I’m not and I need to go to the bathroom. When I return to head back upstairs Elise again calls me. This goes on for several more times and I regret to say I lose my temper (or perhaps I had already lost it) and allow myself to fall into the trap of just making my tone angrier and angrier. It never works and I know it doesn’t help in the long run either. Eventually Elise calms down and gets in bed. I finish the show with a happy Will but an unhappy me. I feel bad because I have allowed myself to lose my temper. I feel bad because I care more about the show than taking the time to make bedtime go a little smoother. What happened to all the good things I felt during devotions today? What happened to my prayers for God’s help? Have I merely forgotten to rely on it?
When Will starts to get grumpy I put him to bed. Tonight he cries. I pull out some old ice cream from the freezer and take it upstairs to eat while I watch another TV show. I turn off the monitor but I can still hear Will’s cries. When I finish the ice cream I go down to get Will. As I pass Elise’s room I am happy to see that she appears to be asleep despite the noise. Will and I rock while I finish the show I was watching and he falls asleep. I put him to bed, but he wakes up again and starts to cry. I rock him some more downstairs in the nursery and when he falls asleep again I put him right down. He appears to be ready to stay asleep now, so I leave him.
Now, here I sit, finishing this essay. Why did I do this today? Well, for one thing I wanted to write down how an actual day in my life goes. What did I gain from it? Well, I see that there is humor in small things if I just keep looking for it. I see that God still has a lot of work to do in my life, especially in my role as a wife and mother. But I am also reminded why I do what I do. I also see that though I feel I accomplished very little today, it was not for lack of trying, and that I did not accomplish as little as I thought. It was just not the things I had put out for myself to do today, but perhaps I tend to be over-enthusiastic in my goals for one day. It has also become clearer to me that changes need to be made in some of my parenting moments and that Elise’s character is at stake. I hope that she has not come off as terrible in this essay. She really isn’t, but she is not easy either. Today was really probably a worse day than others and I’m sure I probably concentrated more on those things I found annoying instead of the good things she did today. Plus, the more foul my mood the more foul her mood, and let’s face it, today was not one of my better days.
All in all, when it is all said and done, I love what I do. I love who I am; though I am not content with how I am, if that makes sense. God has given me a great life and this morning that was obvious to me. I love my husband, who is a great man. I love my children, even the one far away from me, the one who always needs me, and the one who gets on my nerves. There were moments in today when all three of those children felt close to me. Emma is never far from my mind, and I thought of her several times today. Will’s smiles and cuddles were enough reminder for me to realize how much I love him. I was amazed at how big he is getting and how quickly he is changing. How is he learning all these things, I wondered as I played with him this afternoon. And as we ate supper I remember looking at Elise and realizing what a beautiful child she is. She is looking so graceful in her movements. She is an amazing child. I want her inside beauty to match the outside. I need to pray more for this and to consider more what God can do through me to help accomplish this.
And so my day ends. I am wondering now when I am going to write the bills. I was supposed to do that today, and if I don’t do it tonight will need to do it in the morning. I am so tired now though, that I may put it off yet again and head to bed instead. It is 10:30 pm! Yes, I will head to bed. I also have to pack for our trip tomorrow, leave the kitchen clean hopefully, make some muffins and be ready to leave around 3:00. Good-night.