Monday, September 5, 2011

Rotten Cheese and Apple Pie

Last week felt uphill in its entirety. It was my final week to prep for the school year. Hannah got pretty ill - lots of Kleenex, two trips to the doctor, a breathing treatment and a prescription inhaler to boot. We had to cancel plans every day. I bumped my shin really hard by walking into a misplaced step stool late one night (it still hurts when I swim). To top things off, someone decided to wedge a big chunk of rotten cheese on our front door knob late Thursday night. Come Friday morning, the girls and I were nearly knocked down by its stench when I unknowingly opened the door to take some mail to the box. Before I figured out what was going on, our entire downstairs wreaked of rancid food ... at 7:30 in the morning. 

While none of these challenges were insurmountable, combined they wore me out. With a bit of perspective (brought to you by a long weekend and two swim sessions) I am choosing to believe that this completely jumbled, annoying, taxing and at moments obnoxious week was perfectly timed. With our school year hours away my internal pendulum has swung out of Type-A land ever so slightly, helping me to keep it real.

I sat down with Hannah this afternoon to give her the lay of the 2nd grade land. We talked about diligence and gratitude - the words that we've attached to this year's studies. She seemed to be tracking; she was also busy picking at the skin behind her ears. That's what it is to teach children. When you're knee-deep in planning mode, you can forget that you're dealing with real-live-ear-picking human beings!

That was the gift of last week as well. I was reintroduced to the bumps and the bruises we all must endure in our daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute existences. These things get in the way. They interrupt our rhythm and leave us feeling down. Yet what I'm coming to see is that the beauty of imperfections - of life's interruptions - often leave the largest imprint if only we let them. 

Yesterday and today we got our hands dirty in the name of nature study. We made our way to a miniature donkey farm (that housed an odd assortment of creatures including a Zonkey). We spent time with the animals and then harvested nearly ten pounds of Gala apples. 

This morning we turned our apples into pie. We talked about Almanzo Wilder and how many pies his mother made each Saturday. We recalled how fast and how much pie Almanzo consumed and felt an even deeper appreciation for how hard his family worked. 

I slipped Hannah a small chunk of dough and her own stack of apples. We essentially parallel-played our way throughout most of our time in the kitchen - she forming her own little tart while I worked on the actual pie. Phil joined in too and Hailey was more than happy to consume her fair share at dinnertime.

Last week left me feeling ill-prepared to teach science in particular. I have grand plans in the area of nature study, but to date they exist mostly in my head. I imagined that by now my entire year would be mapped out in Excel spreadsheet sort of terms. Instead, I know what we're doing this week (sort of). 

I think that's part of the lesson here (and this one is for me). We need room to wiggle, both literally and figuratively. A week of bumps with the exclamation point end of rotten cheese led us to pet donkeys, pick apples and experience much as a family. Part of me thinks that the  most important experiment I might conduct this year is to not plan everything. There, we just may find the key to weathering life's promised unpredictability with a bit more grace.       


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