The Importance of Defining Water

Today has been full of first-world misadventures.

The mop I bought, to replace previous stolen mop, apparently is held together with a zip tie.  And I broke the zip tie.


The lightbulb in the laundry room burnt out, and I have been doing laundry in the dark for 2 days.


Yesterday, I got a call from ADT saying someone broke into the house.  Again.


But after calling my realtor, it turns out it was just a guy from insurance.


I run things on a flexible agenda around here.  There are things we need to accomplish every day, such as school, chores and meals.  These are inflexible agenda points that will get done, usually in a certain order and by a certain time.  Chores are done before school, and usually before breakfast.  Meals are at 8, 12, 3 (teatime) and 7.  School includs computer work and textbooks, and both need to be finished every day; either computer work in the morning and textbooks in the afternoon, or vice versa.  It just depends on concentration and focus levels, but the structure is in place to accommodate either option.

However, with the amount of things and people in the house, and given the range of ages these people are, there has to be room for flexibility.  Sometimes the lightbulbs burn out, and you don’t have time to go to the store for more, so you figure out how to open a liturgy doors and windows in order to get sunlight into dark rooms.  Sometimes the mop breaks, and no amount of coercion will convince it to be fixed, so you rediscover shuffling old towels over the floors.  Sometimes you wrestle with the dishwasher, and ultimately attempt Socratic arguments with the machine just to get it to wash anything, instead of making the dishes worse.  Some mornings the 3 year old will be more clingy than others, so she will be attached to me while we get things done.  Some days math takes 3 hours, sometimes it takes half an hour.  Sometimes I don’t shower until afternoon, and sometimes…we just need to get out of here, and we go to the beach or for a hike and reset ourselves.

We are only indoor people with the explicit understanding that the option for outdoors is always available and utilized.

Yesterday, I saw a very interesting list.

It said:

Describe these things-

1. Describe the difference between left and right.

2. Explain what your favorite color looks like.

3. Think of a color that doesn’t exist.

4. Describe what water tastes like.

The truth is, describing these things is not the most interesting activity.  You aren’t going to unlock a portal into another dimension if you describe what water tastes like.  Explaining in detail what a color looks like is actually not the most compelling and engaging exploration of the mind.

Yet, that isn’t entirely the point.

The purpose of this is to explore the journey to get there.  It is to see the surrounding landscape that will ultimately lead to the goal, rather than simply define the target.

 When I think of the line of vocation I have, being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, sometimes the landscape starts to blur together around 4pm.  By this point in the day, we have been busy working and finishing our lists of items, I have gone through 3 of the 4 set meal times and we all need a break.  We need time to rest, play, think, or space out for a while.  Given the flexible agenda we have, the biggest obstacle I have during the day is “the goal.”

Most of the time, I see the goal as accomplishing the agenda by the end of the day; at the latest, by 5pm.

Math, reading, spelling, workbooks and computer work must be accomplished.

The kitchen should be tolerably clean, laundry needs to be touched upon, meals need to be made.  I don’t like to obsess over the state of the house, but I also need to make it part of the structure of the day to instruct the kids (and myself) to be good stewards of the home.

The part of “the goal” that is the problem is that these aren’t the goal.  These are all target items.  These are items that are important, but only for the purpose of building, teaching, guiding and encouraging the people involved in accomplishing the target items. All of these target items are variables in the agenda, and can be subject to flexible change.

These are actually the landscape, and the persons engaged are the goal.

The persons who I am instructing are my goal.  Not the kitchen, not the laundry.  Certainly not how much math or how many library books we have read during the day.  The individuals are the goal, and the agenda should reflect how I construct the landscape around them, and myself, in order to raise and grow happy, interested, well-balanced and functioning people.  That is the point of the day.

So, when I think of “what water tastes like,” it seems exactly like trying to answer, “how to raise children” or “who am I.”  It depends where we are: water in coastal Alaska is significantly different than water in coastal Costa Rica.  Similarly, energetic children in the 1st grade will have significantly different needs than thoughtful children in the 5th grade; just as where I am now is significantly different than where I was 5 years, or even 5 months ago.  It is just interesting that as a modern woman, and as a  mother of 5 kids, you go through the entire day defining and redefining what water tastes like, depending on what hour it is, who you are with, or whether or not you have had afternoon coffee.


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