Friday, January 16, 2015

better left unbroken

Some things in life are better left unbroken. People's bones. Someone's heart. Your bike. I'd rather not see these things broken. There are things around my house I would prefer didn't break. The oven, the washer, the dishwasher, the car, the heat. Yet that's exactly what's happened recently: nearly everything has broken or a function of it has stopped working.

Two years ago, our toaster oven bit the dust. It started sparking flames out of the back where the plug connected to the electrical insides. It made a quick exit stage left. Ever since then we've toasted things in the oven. No problem - that's why we have a broiler, right? Then a month ago, a couple days before Thanksgiving, the broiler stopped working.  Thankfully (no punn intended) we weren't planning to broil anything for Thanksgiving, so we just pushed through. To this day the broiler doesn't work. I'm just glad the subtle buzzing sound from the back of the oven has stopped.

Since moving last year, the washing machine has not been able to handle our laundry. Frankly I'm not sure this washing machine could handle the laundry of a single, petite woman who's fastidiously clean, much less a family of 5.  We NEED the laundry to function swiftly, efficiently, and thoroughly. Yet I've not been able to wash more than 2 towels at a time. I can only wash 7 cloth diapers at a time.  The washing machine can only handle 6 - 10 articles of clothing depending on the size of the person who owns the clothes.  Forget about washing 2 sweatshirts at once. 2 pairs of jeans - NEVER. Not only that, but even when we would put in a minimal amount of clothing, sometimes it would still halt mid-cycle, unable to finish. Torture.

Three months ago, the dishwasher stopped completing it's cycle on its own. Pressing ever so slightly against the dishwasher door would enable it to keep running, so we deduced there was something wrong with the latch. Instead of getting someone to fix the dishwasher, Tom has just been taping the door shut while it's running. Most of the time this works, but due to the cheap quality of the off-brand packing tape we bought, sometimes it fails. *Sigh*

Then our car stopped working. Once in October the car wouldn't start, so we had a new starter put in. Then in November, the battery wouldn't charge, and after it had been at the dealer for 4 days over the Thanksgiving weekend, we brought it home on a Tuesday night, only to wake up on Wednesday morning and have it be dead again. Nearly 12 days straight without our family car - without the ability to transport our whole family at one time.

The refrigerator doesn't really warrant mentioning. Yes the ice maker doesn't work, and some kind of warning light has been telling us a filter needs to be changed for the last 8 months. But it DOES keep food refrigerated. In this household, you've got to be a squeakier wheel than that to get some attention.

But don't rest on your laurels just yet. The other night, Tom was investigating why the radiators in the kids' rooms were not pumping out heat. The end of his hours of researching on youtube, purging the system of air, and re-pressurizing the expansion tank led to his discovery that there was a huge crack in the expansion tank. We've started 2015 with a bang: a brand new expansion tank, and finally a warm house all over - the day before the temperature fell to -14 (windchill of -34).

Putting finances aside (because it's laughable how we could possibly pay for all these things at once. By laughable, I mean impossible), there are things I've become so dependent on for our daily living. I want the washing machine to run a complete cycle. I want the dishwasher to wash the dishes. I expect that when I turn the key, the car will start. We must have heat in a Minnesota house. When these processes are not functioning, I become a cranky mom. More than cranky, really. I'm sure my children and husband could offer up some more exact words.

Sean recently had his 3rd lip revision surgery. We believed this to be his last surgery. We rejoiced. Until the days following the surgery when he and Audrey got so silly, high-energy, and play wrestling/fighting with each other, that she knocked his stitches right out of his mouth. There was blood dribbling out of his mouth, and he kept wiping it on his sleeves. I had just finished yelling at them the day before when they got too rough and Audrey hit Sean in the lip. Again the blood, again the looks of deer in headlights from them to me. I felt completely disheartened, at a loss of how to explain why I was worried about his lip, his gaping hole inside his mouth, the blood on his clothes (laundry is ALREADY a challenge), the financial implications of one surgery lost, and possibly another surgery on the horizon. I yelled.

me: This IS NOT funny!

Smirks fell quickly away from their lips. Mainly there were tears. Some things are better left unbroken.

Finally, a burst of sun through the clouds: we received a gift of a washing machine and toaster oven for Christmas and my life has totally changed. Suddenly the clothes can be cleaned. More than 7 towels can go into this machine at one time. Mind blown! Whole hampers of clothing can be washed in one cycle. Revolutionary! We received another gift of a toaster oven for Christmas, too. This thing toasts bread on both sides. AT THE SAME TIME.

Sean's lip is healing from the inside out. The scarring will be minimal and will only be seen by a doctor.  In the end, it will be fixed at some point in the future. And slowly but surely we will find ways to fix the appliances around the house. I have faith in that. The trick here is to keep valuing my present moments with the kids even amidst my frustrations. Broken appliances or stitches, I can feel overwhelmed by wanting things to remain unbroken. The fact is I can't stop the appliances, car, or kids from breaking. I'm here to kiss the stubbed toes, scraped knees, and apply pressure to the bleeding lip until the bleeding stops.  I'm here to laugh with them, even when I desperately want them to fall asleep at night, or sit down at the dinner table, or pick up their toys. I'm here to help them discover ways to resolve conflicts with each other instead of always stepping in to solve it for them. My role as parent is far from perfect. Most days, it's terribly broken. If I can learn to embrace the brokenness - in myself, my kids, our house, and this life - I find I am gentler on myself and gentler on my loved ones.  Perhaps some things are not better left unbroken. Most things accepted right where they are? Just right.

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