Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stretching the Comfort Zone

Beware the STATUS QUO!

It has a way of creeping up on you, catching you unaware as you snooze through days driven by sameness.  Not that each day doesn't present its own joys, diversions and challenges.  Its just that...well.... sometimes, unless we purposefully mix things up a little, those things take on a predictable routine. 

Case in point: Weekday mornings

Day 1: Husband -            "Time to get up!"           
           Momster -            "G'mornin' everyone- did you remember to blah, blah.blah..."
           Firstborn -            "...s'morning? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "I don't feel good."
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Hey, Mom- can I tell you about the dream I had?"
           Bonus Baby -        "I'm hungry!"

Day 2: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Ugh, my aching back- oh, that reminds me, we need to...."
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Why didn't somebody wake me up?! I can't go to school - I need a shower!"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Morning already?"
           Bonus Baby -       "Can I have pancakes?"

Day 3: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Man, I slept terrible...but we have to do this and that and that other thing..."
           Firstborn -            "Mmm-hunh...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Do I have to go to school today?"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "I can't get up - there's an elephant on my eyelids."
           Bonus Baby -        "Life cereal please!"

Day 4: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Does anyone need to go in early today?"
           Firstborn -            "....mmmm....mornin'...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "I still don't feel good..."
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Ugh - I didn't sleep all night with all the aliens in the room..."
           Bonus Baby -        "What's for breakfast?"

Day 5: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Finally- it's almost the weekend! Today we all have to...."
           Firstborn -            "Mrrghrphluffff....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...."
           Only Son -            "Grrr'mornin'."
           Third Child -         "Everyone needs to MOVE IT so we're not late again!"
           Sweetie Petite-y - "Do I have to take a shower?  The aliens were back."
           Bonus Baby -       "Can I have Apple Dapples in the living room and watch T.V?"

Then, thankfully, there are the weekends:

Day 6: Husband -             "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Third Child -         "Good morning everyone!"
           Sweetie Petite-y -  "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Bonus Baby -        "Oatmeal - yay!"

Day 7: Husband -            "Time to get up!"
           Momster -            "Ah, good morning my love..."
           Firstborn -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Only Son -            "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Third Child -         "Oh my gosh!  I don't have anything to wear to church!"
           Sweetie Petite-y -  "ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz......"
           Bonus Baby -        "Second breakfast, please!"

Okay, so some things never change. 

This could have been last week, last month or last year - the cycle repeats as regularly as clockwork, and we've gotten pretty comfortable with it. However, it won't be that way next year, or even next week, because an event forever changing our family dynamic is about to occur - Firstborn is leaving for college.

We knew it was coming, have anticipated it for years now.  Before we ever settled into this routine we knew it wouldn't last forever - kinda like wearing skinny-waisted jeans. Where children are involved, change is inevitable. And, just as I accommodated a growing waistline line with stretch pants, I have pulled out my "pregnant" mindset and begun to prepare. 

Just how, you may ask, am I doing that?  By purposefully stretching my comfort zone. 


Our first exercise in this was to invite a Japanese teenager to live with us. Just considering it was like scheduling a root canal - you know you should, but you're afraid of how things might turn out. But Hiro was a revelation.  Friends who had hosted exchange students from the same Asian prep school  spoke of shy to stand-offish, awkward young boys who spoke little English and were perpetually jet lagged.  Hiro had the jet lag, but was mature and self-assured beyond his years.  Exquisite manners, excellent language skills and a natural curiosity regarding the American lifestyle (and willingness to share his Japanese culture) made him an extremely enjoyable guest.  Cultivating an interest in "culinary diplomacy", he insisted on cooking for us, producing a phenomenal miso soup.  Despite the two hours it took him to "whip up" this simple traditional dish (we were starving!), he avoided taking any shortcuts, wanting to do things the proper way.  The result was well worth the wait.

Besides being generous with time and talent, Hiro brought little treasures from Japan, having thoughtfully inquired about individual likes and interests ahead of time.  Bonus Baby thought Christmas had come again in the form of Hello Kitty!  The older Critters (whose comfort zones also bear stretching) gladly accepted his gifts, though took longer to feel comfortable with an extra person in the house.  But for Bonus Baby, Husband and I, Hiro immediately became part of the family.  And by the time his two weeks here were up, everyone was sad to see him go.


Only Son got to see him again only a week or so later when he traveled to Japan - his first time flying and another HUGE stretch for this OCD Momster. Normally, I'm paranoid about the Critters wandering even our sleepy corner of New England alone.  Allowing Only Son to traipse around Tokyo with minimal supervision (and even less contact) grew us both.  On a scale of 1 - 10, he declared his travel experience a 40+.....and considering we both survived the umbilical cord stretching that far, I'd say it was worth the discomfort and anxiety.  Only Son came home happier and confidant, more tolerant of his siblings (perhaps because he missed them) and is still just as cuddly as ever.


As if one Japanese student wasn't enough, a month or two later we opened our home to 15 kids plus coaches from a New York boarding school Ultimate Frisbee team. Wall to wall sleeping bags in the living room and basement made our own rambunctious crew a little quieter than normal, but reinforced how accommodating the needs of others makes us better - and can be downright enjoyable to boot!  The team was great (GO PLAID!) and I'd host them again in a heartbeat.


I've finally reentered the workforce.  Not that I wasn't already busy - Lord knows! - but with Firstborn heading off to college, it was high time to turn a profit.  So.... back to the world of adult conversations, compensation (other than kisses) for my labors, and directly contributing to society.   Yes, I was a little nervous.  After all, I'd been raising kids, not keeping up with work place trends all this time. But I like making my own mark, not hoping one will rub off second hand.  Wish the art and writing had done it, but like ripe cheese, a little age and mold might make all the difference.  In the meantime, now that I've somewhat mastered the skills my new/old position requires, I'm actually enjoying myself, and the Critters are learning just what it takes to keep this even busier household on track, since they have to help to pick up the slack.


Firstborn has been exerting her independence lately by making some choices that we both recognise as... well, let's just say a tad controversial. 

She is spreading her wings, getting ready to fly the coop.  At least... half of her is.  The other half resisted getting her driver's license, procrastinated finding summer employment, avoided completing her college loan applications, and still wants to be Momster's baby girl.  But now that she has FINALLY done the first three, I hope she realizes that the latter is a lifelong thing --- less the financially dependent part, please!


Not that he really wants to, but Husband has had to stretch a lot lately as well.  Not only is he learning to trust in God's provision (timely job opportunities that almost exactly bridged the financial gaps we were facing helped there), but he is learning that in order to age gracefully, we are sometimes required to relinquish things both little (like filling-thieving Milk Duds!) and big.....

( egos!)


Post script: In predictable Momster fashion, I am posting this after the fact.  We dropped Firstborn off this week, and she is settling in nicely.  I'm slightly less of a wreck that I thought I'd be, and trying to avoid managing her affairs from across the state.  Maybe all the stretching exercizes really did help. By the by, did anyone notice that I tried to compact several months worth into one post?  Time is at a premium, and as much as I love blogging, it is becoming an indulgence I can't afford - at least on a regular basis.  I may try to just write and leave the cartoons for special occasions --- if enough of you are still interested in wasting a few minutes with me now and then ....  Drop me a line or comment and let me know how you feel about it.

P.S.S.T.: How do you like my new banner?  I just joined Top Mommy Blogs (note all the link options for you to vote for me ;) and I'm learning all sorts of new computer skills t'boot!  Like downloading this tiny image so that I can link it as a URL for my blog listing.  Yeh, yeh, I know I said I don't have any time for all this, but Bonus Baby is so wiped out after Pre-K that I get a little break while she naps - woo-hoo!