After two years of homeschooling, our girls are returning to school this fall, and in preparation for things like tuition, uniforms, and fundraisers, I’m trying to find small ways in which I can save some extra money by putting our lifestyle on a financial diet. To be frank, there are certain areas I’m not willing to sacrifice under any circumstances, and if I have to find dollars and cents to save around every corner, I would rather do things like mow my own lawn and do my own landscaping rather than live with terrible hair and bad skin. I have a few guilty priorities and I’m not ashamed; feeling cute just isn’t an option.
Doing my own yard work is no minor job to undertake. Where do I even begin? When we bought this house the landscaping was gorgeous with a blooming crepe myrtle, beautiful green ivy crawling throughout the landscaping, and vibrantly green and luscious grass. The previous owners were in their 40’s and they had one child, so they had plenty of time to prune the bushes and pull the weeds, plus I’m assuming they got off on that kind of thing. For me yard work is definitely not an aphrodisiac. In fact, my plants living indoors tend to die a slow and horrid death until my mother comes to visit, nursing them back to health by pulling off the limp bodies of yellowed leaves and watering the ones still managing to hang on for dear life. The plants outdoors are no exception, but they have managed to survive thanks to the elements of their natural environment which requires zero effort from me.
I keep imagining that my priorities will change as I get older, that perhaps I will wake up one morning with a quaint straw hat upon my head and a pair of polka dotted gardening gloves covering my hands. That still hasn’t happened, and as time presses on, I’m coming to the conclusion that perhaps it never will. If you were to drive past our home it would be reasonable to assume that we were squatting in an abandoned foreclosure until you came inside to a quaint atmosphere with cool artwork hanging on the walls and the smell of aromotherapy essential oils wafting through the air . It’s not unlike living within one of those flip books we had as children where you could intermingle heads, torsos, and feet, except our book is full of various pieces of refurbished furniture painted with interesting pops of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint paired with a brutal takeover of crabgrass and weeds as tall as the shrubbery. Another option would be pairing our organized bookcases displaying their bindings in beautiful, colorful order paired with various items from the garage strewn across the driveway and into the backyard. The only thing we are missing back there is a rusted out, broken down RV, a sagging chain-linked fence, and a dozen feral cats infected with rabies.
Just this morning my husband was peering out of the back window as he was unloading the dishwasher, the smell of freshly brewed coffee all-consuming as I walked into the kitchen still half asleep. Like always, he grabbed me and pulled me close to him to give me a hug and a kiss, and, like always, I shrugged him off playfully.
“It’s too early for that. I haven’t even gained my balance this morning,” I complained as I gave him a kiss to momentarily appease him. As I reached for my coffee mug I looked out of the back window to see what he was noticing. I sighed heavily. “Why did Anne put away all of the chairs last night, but leave just that one at the edge of the driveway?”
All of the neighborhood kids are out of school for Spring Break and yesterday they dragged all of the folding chairs out of the garage and lined them along the driveway for a talent show. I have no complaints; I love it when “real” school is out. It means that I gain a collection of extra kids for a week who keep my children occupied all day. A while back, I seriously contemplated whether or not I should be paying them for the welcomed service, but I considered the favor even when a few months ago the neighborhood boys decided they would get the black spray paint out of my husband’s tool chest. We still have a tree out front with our 9-year-old’s name cascading down the trunk. At least it’s the side facing the house instead of the street, but needless to say, the neighborhood boys don’t come around much anymore.
I poured my coffee, spooning in a little bit of honey and half and half. “Do you see all of the other stuff she left out?” he asked. “They got the shovel out again.” I pulled my attention back to the window.
Sure enough there it was, laying right next to the hole we asked our 6-year-old to please stop digging, but it is no surprise to us that she didn’t listen. Out of all of our children, she is the most determined and hard-headed, which I never thought would be possible given that our oldest is much the same way. I actually prayed throughout my third pregnancy that she would come out calm and angelic, yet when we heard that first cry, we knew that God had other plans. She was the loudest baby on the entire maternity floor, and every time she would get upset, it was like a falling of dominos down the hall; all of the babies, one-by-one, would start wailing. That determination never died, but was transferred from having her diaper changed immediately to digging a hole to the center of the Earth. Knowing that kid, I won’t be surprised if she actually accomplishes it.
“Molly is never going to listen,” I responded. “I guess the good news is that her strength only allows her to dig a dusting out of that hole each day. With any luck she will eventually get bored with it.”
“Yeah, but do you see all of the other items out there?” he asked. “Our back yard is like a Highlight’s Hidden Pictures Playground Magazine. Can you find the screwdriver on the play-set?” I couldn’t help but to laugh when I finally saw it. “There’s probably a toothbrush out there somewhere,” he continued. “The screwdrivers and the toothbrushes were always the hardest ones to find.”
As Jackson trailed off upstairs to take a shower, I sat at the back window looking out at the calm of the morning. I’m just thankful that after 12 years of parenting, I have learned to laugh at the small things. I know that eventually over time, I will get out there and our yard will take on a new life again. As time presses on–sunburns seeping in, yard shoes getting covered in green residue, and knees being indented with the imprint of mulch and gravel–perhaps I will uncover a place in my heart that was there all along for things like gardening and maintaining the outside of our home. When that happens, I imagine our flip book will finally align perfectly with freshly painted walls, a kitchen stocked of organic fruits and vegetables, the smell of freshly cut grass coming in through the open windows, and a garden full of colorful blooms among a rich and diverse landscaping to peer out onto from the kitchen window. As a generation already gone through this stage of parenthood would advise me, “You’ll miss that shovel, those freshly dug out holes, and those weeds some day.”
And to them I would reply, “Yes, I think you’re exactly right.”