“The Day Off”


Blog Post # 5

(Otherwise referred to as “The Most Stressful Day of the Month”)

Having acquainted you with a sample of one of our family’s typical days of home schooling in my last post “Home School Daze,” I thought you might be ready for a leisurely stroll through one of my days off.
Yes, it’s true! Once a month, I got a day off from the 24/7/365 of home schooling, thanks to my equally desperate—(Whoops! Faux pas! I meant to say extremely generous)—sister, Karen. (The one with the six kids.)

We struck on the scathingly brilliant idea of giving each other a day off so we could enjoy a relaxing day pursuing long-deferred activities and interests. After experimenting with a twelve-hour day, we decided that wasn’t enough, and extended the time to a full twenty-four hours. (This included a sleepover with cousins at the home of the sister who was babysitting. O Joy! O Rapture!)
Living about 40 minutes apart, we settled on a half-way point for the exchange of valuables. As close as possible to daybreak, I piled my sleepy-eyed children in the car with a light heart and growing anticipation. For days, and with high hopes, I had been planning and listing the multitude of activities I hoped to accomplish during the next twenty-four hours. Shoving and stuffing the last of the backpacks, pillows, and dangling arms and legs protruding from doors and windows into the car like cramming an over-packed suitcase, we set off with merry hearts aflutter.

At the half-way point,–a shopping center at the corner of Haven and Baseline–I sat eagerly waiting for my sister to arrive.  My children, also eager for the fun they inevitably would have with their cousins, watched with an all-searching eye for the big blue 1980s Dodge Ram Van (AKA “Big Uggs”) to roll into the lot. We were always right on time,—if not super early. Karen was usually a few minutes behind my schedule. (I can’t blame her. It was my day off. Hers had either already passed, or was still in stages of careful planning and anticipation.)
Once the children were settled into her car, like a crowd of octopuses with arms and legs aplenty suctioning sticky fingerprints onto windows and upholstery, I waved and blew kisses to that precious busload as they drove off…a surge of emptiness briefly wrenching my heart as they moved away through the traffic.

Then, an internal gun sounded, and like a rearing and skittish horse, I was off! The race to complete every item on my list had begun!
The Day Off” was, for me, a little slice of freedom. A sliver of quiet “alone” time carefully carved out of a packed and chaotic daily schedule. Each day off was an amalgam of opposing forces: productivity verses relaxation—culminating in a feverish cram of anxiety and bliss.

My initial list looked something like this:

In case the image (above) is too small for the reading-glasses set, 
(of which I am a full-fledged member), a less aesthetic list is included below:

Fabric store
Book store
Stationary/Art Supply store
Grocery store
To Do:
Put away groceries
Tidy up the house
Throw in a load of laundry
Make a batch of bread
Cut out and sew two new shirts and a dress
Make drawings and sketches
Play the piano and harp
Work on upcoming school curriculum
Create a work of art for our home
Write letters
Make a batch of jam
Greet my husband with an attitude of serenity
Leisurely lounge in the living room reading a good book
Wear one of the new articles of clothing made to Church meeting

I fully expected to accomplish everything on my list every single time I had a day off. I imagined myself gliding through these activities with flawless perfection. Not one hair out of place. Not one glitch in my plans. Perfect and complete execution. Checking items off a list was its own reward. I thrived on getting things done. I thrived on the feeling of accomplishment. 
When reality set in, my list looked more like this:

(Again, text provided beneath the image)

  • Spent hour of indecision in fabric store pouring over patterns. Spent second hour looking over every bolt of fabric before deciding on less expensive (and less appealing) piece (of fabric)
  • Spent hour wandering aisles of Barnes & Noble, finally got small journal from discount area
  • Never made it to stationery or art supply store –not enough time
  • Spent hour shopping in grocery store, and 1/2 hour standing in “wrong” line
  • Decided to put library books in drop box—will browse shelves next day off

To Do:
  • Put away groceries
  • Tidied up the house
  • Threw in a load of laundry
  • Made a batch of homemade wheat bread from scratch
  • Cut out and began sewing one shirt. Cut fist-sized hole in fabric with serger. Spent 45 minutes picking out threads, cutting new piece of fabric and fixing mistake. Two hours later, shirt done
  • Made sketch on scratch paper of project to save for next day off. Put it in new journal (where it was forgotten, since next entry made two months later)
  • Found broken string on harp. Spent 1/2 hour replacing & tuning. Piano idle ‘til kids got home
  • Worked 2 hours on school curriculum.
  • Made & hung new pictures on school bulletin board in dining room  
  • Spent 2 hours thinking about writing letter while running errands forgot to do earlier (Never wrote letter)
  • Greeted Brad [husband] with hot bread. Frazzled expression—hoping fresh bread will compensate for lack of serenity
  • Devoured 1/2 a loaf of fresh bread for dinner (used last year’s jam)
  • Gazed longingly at book sitting forlornly on bedside table…quickly put on old dress for church meeting
  • Fell into bed, an exhausted heap of partial satisfaction and semi-disappointed accomplishment 
The Box Karen Gave Me (I still have it!)
At the beginning of another of my days off, Karen surprised me with a beautifully decorated box. Inside the box were accoutrements suggestive of ultimate relaxation, such as bath salts, and a cassette tape of calming music (yes, a cassette tape–this was during the Stone Age). She urged me to spend at least part of my day with a good book, and a soothing bath accompanied by the music. A wonderful gift! I was so grateful and touched by her thoughtfulness. 

(Looking back, this was strangely ironic since Karen’s passion and drive far exceed my own. Her “day off” lists were equal to, if not exceeding mine in frenzy. In principle, she was devoted to the ideal of “Living a Beautiful Life,” and took measures to do that, always seeing things–as I often do–through idyllic eyes.)
The box, which remained in plain sight every day off from that time on, was a sweet and gentle reminder of the ultimate goal: rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit. The music was beautiful and relaxing. I know, because I played it while I dizzily worked to accomplish my list…the bath salts a lovely reminder of what I intended to do…on my next Day Off.

© Copyright May 3, 2014

Author: cynthyb

Hi! I'm Cynthy, a woman of family and faith who, among other things, loves to write.

7 thoughts on ““The Day Off”

  1. I'd love to hear the other side of the day-off! Those were some of our funnest days and our cherished memories. And, I think you were so lucky to have a car that fit everyone! Do you want to meet in Lake Elsinore and pass Grandpa off to me? hahaha. 🙂


  2. Perhaps you should tell the other side! I'd love to hear your perspective.

    How DID I fit everyone in my car? Fortunately, in those days, there weren't the car seat laws we have now. We could never manage it today.

    Not sure I'm up for any more days off like that! I'll think I'll just hang on to Grandpa.:)


  3. I LOVED those days off! We must have been early to “The Half Way Point” a few times because I remember searching for your van with the greatest anticipation!

    There was a lot of “sharing” seat belts and cramming in the back seats, yet somehow we were always returned to our mother's car in one piece and always happy.

    I believe it was on one of these so called “Days Off” when I hid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich under Jesse and Joe's bunk bed. As a mother who now has her own kids and many, many, many cousins, I too share the joy of finding random food (this week it was pizza and toast) under my children's bed after cousins leave.

    I love reading your posts-Keep them coming!


  4. I'm sure you were early to the half-way point many times, Sadie! But it always seemed we waited on MY days off! Memory is a funny thing that way.

    I found more than food afterwards–socks, toys, books, you name it! In fact, nothing's changed. I still find stuff around the house after family has been here. It's inevitable, and kind of a family joke.

    Thanks for taking time to write a note! I LOVE getting them.

    By the way, did you try “following?” It still only shows me following myself. (I feel super silly about that, but it's the only way I could figure out how to get to the blog without signing in and out of accounts. Maybe someone more blog savvy could give me some pointers.)


  5. Oh, you are two awesome families. I can remember giving my mom a day off – usually volunteering to take the kids to Disneyland! Now that I am a mom I definitely feel the need to have a sister nearby to trade days off. That sounds like heaven!


  6. You are so kind, Amber! Thank you so much for taking time to comment!

    I think you are amazing!–volunteering to give your mom a day off is one of the most thoughtful and loving gestures a daughter could do.

    If not a sister by blood, maybe there's a sisterly friend equally desperate for a day off that might take turns with you.

    Wishing you a little slice of day off heaven…


  7. Pingback: Tribute – For Karen | cynthyb

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