Puzzling it out

I’m fascinated by how people do what they do. How does Minerva juggle a 40-hour workweek, husband, kids, and house? Or what about Juliet and her house filled with biological, adopted, and foster kids, and all the resulting emotional issues—how does she handle all the intensity? And how in the blessed world does Ethel manage to take care of her own small children plus other people’s even smaller children and not go absolutely raving mad herself?

I wonder about these things. A lot.

I know people wonder the same thing about me. In fact, I get the How-Do-You-Do-It Question all the time. Actually, people don’t ask it that way—they usually say, I don’t see how you do it. And then they shake their heads like I’m a 1000 piece puzzle that’s missing six pieces—in other words, I’m complicated and impossible to put together.

(Funny Story, inspired because I typed “missing pieces” and it brought to mind the expression “missing screws”—used in sentences such as, “that person is sure missin’ some screws.” The story is this: At our going-away party at the end of our three-year term in Nicaragua, our team was making a candle for us to take with us. Each person came to the party with a small token of what we meant to them, the plan being to layer the small items in the mold along with the candle wax. I don’t remember any of the tokens, sweet though they were, except for one man’s, a good friend of Mr. Handsome’s and a fellow carpenter, someone who totally understood and shared in my husband’s frustration in finding suitable supplies to work with out in the Nicaraguan boonies. This friend had brought a little screw as his token, and as he held it up to the group before laying it in the candle, he said to my husband, “May you find good screws wherever you go!” Raucous laughter ensued and follow-up comments were made, but I’ll stop here.)

I may be complicated, and I might not be put together, but I’m not impossible (though Mr. Handsome may take issue with that last part). However, I can see why some people might be confused. I homeschool my kids, talk on the phone, cook from scratch, garden, mediate (or squash) sibling squabbles, read books, do laundry, attend church council meetings (because I am chair of youth council, not just for the heck of it), tend my blog, make sourdough, lounge around, go for walks/runs, go to church, scrub toilets, micro-manage four children, eat bonbons (I mean, chocolates), do the grocery shopping, can and freeze, and watch movies.

One thing my mom always says when I verbalize my puzzlements about other people’s lifestyle is, “Well, what isn’t she doing?” Here’s what I’m not doing. I don’t mow the yard, watch TV, feed the animals, listen to the radio, have an out-of-the-home job, make (too many) idle trips to town, sort the recycling, put storage items in the attic, draw/sing/dance/play a musical instrument, change the oil in the van, go anywhere, clean house all that much, take care of the chickens, sew, do remodeling projects, play with my children, fix things, earn money, recover furniture, clean the back hall, have company over (much), make my bed, baby my house plants, haul firewood, sleep in, travel, and dust the broccoli plants. And most important of all, other people assist and enable me in my productivity. I have friends and family who step in and help out with the kids on occasion, and Mr. Handsome is a whirling dervish when it comes to work of any sort—he busts his tail doing housework and parenting stuff (not too mention all the outside work, too) in the evenings.

So there you have it. The six irksome puzzle pieces are no longer missing. Now you know how I do what I do and you have no more questions. That’s good.

There’s a problem, though: I still don’t know how you do it (or don’t do it). If you feel so inclined, please fill me in.

(My mother informed me that I don’t put enough pictures of myself on the blog. I had to remedy that problem right quick, of course, seeing as my mother calls the shots around this house, even though she doesn’t live here. At least not yet.)

About One Year Ago: A Milestone. We have been diaper-bag-less for one whole year. Amazing.


  • 40winkzzz

    i think people are always amazed by people who do the things they *don't* do. i have cousins who think i am "amazing" simply because i homeschool, yet i shake my head and wonder how other people homeschool more kids than i ever have *and* cook from scratch or make handmade jewelry in their basements or piant their walls and sew curtains to match or tend fabuous gardens full of succulent vegetables or keep their houses immaculate or write and market curriculum or whatever it is they do that i don't. because, apart from my recent tawdry affair with working outside the home, pretty much *all* i do is homeschool (and for the past 4 years, i've homeschooled only 2 kids). well, that and a few other little things that don't count, or at least don't seem significant to me.

    (i don't even read & comment on interesting blog posts in a timely manner, as you can see.)

    i think your mom is right though, about looking at what other people *don't* do. it's just that i have such a big don't-do-(and-wish-i-did) list myself….

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    I've found my standards have changed- big time. If my before-kids me could meet my after-three-kids me, my before-kids me would go into shock and pass out after seeing all the dust and spiderwebs in my house. Sometimes you just have to let go of some things (or a lot of things) to get done the things that are currently the most important to you.

  • Mama Pea

    I have more things to do than I can comfortably handle. I don't have any kids at home or work (full or part-time) outside the home. You and a few other bloggers that I read regularly DO accomplish so much that in order to keep from sinking into a deep depression, I'm thinking of unplugging my computer forever and crawling over to that corner by your mom (after ceremoniously burning my Franklin Planner and grabbing a super-size bag of potato chips on the way), and finally letting the lazy person come forth.

  • Anonymous

    That is libel. I'm just a helpless old woman. When I'm not telling stories or playing at your house I'm cowering in the corner with my hands over my ears.

    From your mother

  • milk maid g

    This is what I do that lets me do it, in the midst of classes and practicum and play practice and homework and social negotiations: I eat chocolate, and listen to music with my eyes closed. And of course, I read your blog.

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