Sunday, November 1, 2009

Simple Pleasures

After several dicey weeks in the Friesen home, I knew we needed a change. Since school began at the end of August, our days are full and our nights seem short. Fatigue can frustrate children and Mark and I had noticed a bit too much bickering, sudden short fuses and impatient, sarcastic tones in responses to siblings. Something needed to change.

We have found, at least with our kids, that there is a direct correlation between the level of fussing between my four and the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. We have found, at least with our kids, that having an activity to do together can lead to greater connection. With emotions running high, it was time to reign in our screen time, provide such an activity to help our children find their way.

As you know, our budget is tight. Three years ago, we moved from a townhouse to a home and our townhouse never sold. It has been difficult. It has been trying. It has been CLARIFYING. As we go from day to day, we do not have the ability to seek big ticket items for ourselves or our children. We have come to believe that this clarification might be a good thing... a very good thing.

So, when we started to seek a solution for the bickering in our home, our bank account dictated limits. Wandering through Wal-Mart, the fix became clear. For under $10.00, I came home with months of quiet, cooperative collaboration. What did I find to fit this bill? A puzzle. One thousand tiny pieces of lakeside beauty that will take ages to put together. It is not that we are a puzzle family. It is something we have done from time to time, but certainly not with any regularity. But, there is something about all those pieces, something about a project that we all play a part in producing, something about that peaceful, non-competitive, side-by-side activity that makes a world of difference.

My kids, like yours, do not like to be forced into anything. So, after unpacking the puzzle, I mentioned to Benjamin that I had found a puzzle that I thought would likely be way too hard. : ) That was all the motivation needed and within minutes three of my four (Noah was at a soccer practice...) had dumped the box into the bay window in our living room and were enthusiastically flipping the pieces to right-side-up. They began sorting to find edges and sorting by color and scrutinizing the box to make a plan.

I stood and watched for a few minutes and then wandered off to make dinner. As I cooked, I could hear their sweet voices talking to one another... not just about the puzzle... but about their day... about the deer wandering our yard... about school. Josiah and Elizabeth (ages 7 and 5 respectively) worked on it for a while and then Josiah grabbed a book to read to EB while Benjamin found some pieces that actually fit together.

The peace that had been missing from our home was found. It was not the puzzle that created this peace. No, instead it was the distraction. It was the shared work. It was the chance to remember that we are in it together. And it was good.

The puzzle has been in my bay window for a little over a week. It is not done but it gets some attention every day. In they wander, work for a while, and off they go onto another activity. Sometimes they place pieces alone and sometimes they work as a group. And as it all happens, I watch and smile and have just a few minutes to see the relationship between my children grow in a good and healthy way. They are forming bonds that will outlast me and for these few minutes, their connection to each other makes them smile and giggle and work together. And that makes me happy.

Yesterday was Sunday. We went to church, made Sunday dinner, baked pumpkin bars, warmed cider, raked and burned leaves and enjoyed a day together. My four babies laughed out loud while wrestling the dog in the backyard. Just after we ate, I walked through the living room and saw Josiah and Elizabeth playing a card game on the floor while Noah and Benjamin worked on the puzzle.

"I found one!" Noah exclaimed. "This part of the picture goes together perfectly!"

Standing there watching my kids play peacefully together as the smell of spiced cider and burning leaves swirled around, I knew he was absolutely right. This part of the the picture is perfect.

Blessings on your day.

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