The centerpiece of my kitchen isn't my stove, my sink, or my much-loved KitchenAid. It's a huge dry-erase calendar that clings proudly to the side of the fridge--the side, incidentally, which faces out into the open living space and can be viewed from just about anywhere in the house.
Mr. Blandings bought the board for me roughly 11 years ago. We had only graduated to two children a few months earlier, but already, things were, shall we say, slipping. My habit of flying by the seat of my pants was slowly unraveling my husband's patience--as was my tendency to pack up the babies and take long weekends to visit family members 6 hours away. If I remember correctly, it was while I was off on such a jaunt that I learned that I was the new owner of what Mr. Blandings ominously referred to as "a board for your schedule." Turns out, I had flaked on some other commitment in order to spend the weekend with my mom and cousin. Woops.
I learned to love the calendar after we got to know each other a little better. Turns out it was easier to pick up my trusty black dry-erase and simply write things down than to try and not only remember events or plans, but retrieve them in a timely fashion as well. I came to depend on the calendar, and it was so much a part of my routine by the time that we moved cross-country (and out of range of those tempting weekend getaways) just two years later that it never occurred to me to leave the board behind.
By then, of course, we had not just Jo and Atticus, but Logan, too. Well-child checks, gymnastics classes, library story times ... it was all too much to simply write down. Now it needed to be sorted, I decided. I invested in a simple set of colored dry erase markers and handed out assignments. Mr. Blandings was dark blue. I was red. Jo was purple. Atticus was light blue. Logan was green. Life was now not just more organized, it was prettier, too.
With the addition of more and more family members, our palette had to expand. Today, we still cling to our original color scheme, but with nuances. For example, Logan is a light green. That would be because Manolin is dark green. Oliver is orange. Bee is yellow--and yes, I write in all of her exams and other important dates so that we can be sure to call and check in. Seven is, naturally, pink. Brown is for things that impact everyone--holidays, meetings we all attend, etc. And if something is shared (say, Atticus and Logan's karate lessons) then I alternate colors on letters, just to make a point.
My calendar is large enough to cover an 8 week span, which means that the one I just wrote yesterday ends the week before Christmas. (Yes, Christmas. How wrong is that?) I realize anew every time that I erase the old schedule and write in the new dates that time, which is always marching, marching, marching forward, waits for no man--or woman, either. As I scroll through the calendar app on my phone and transcribe all of the relevant dates between the two, the awareness hits like a ton of bricks:
What? Time to schedule dentist appointments again? Already?
Oliver's birthday? So soon?
Has it really been two years since Grandpa passed?
Other times over the year, there's been the anticipation as I fill in the squares and see the potential in dates that mean nothing to me--yet. For months on end, while we waited for Oli, I remember standing at my post beside the fridge and wondering, "Is this the one? Is this the calendar where I get to assign a new color?" Awaiting Seven's birth was similar. As August popped onto the radar, I wrote in the dates, weighed each of them, wondered if any would be The Day that I'd remember forever as Seven's birthday.
My heart leaped when, last September, I took the tip of my index finger and smudged out the brown "SEVEN" that I'd written on my induction date and replaced it with "Seven born" in sweet, girly pink.
I love the feel of a not-too-full schedule. A few anchoring highlights, the routine of the ordinary to hang my hat on, only a sprinkling of the "must-dos" that inspire so much dread because of their ability to disrupt the entire rhythm of the day. Those are the 8-week blocks that make me sigh with satisfaction. Those are times when many good books will be read, meals will be lingered over, and my crockpot will wonder if I've taken up with another appliance. On the other hand, there are the rushed seasons with too many colors on too many blocks. Those times make me feel tired and irritable just looking over all that has to be done.
The thing to remember, always, is that we fill our days. Our days do not fill us. While some things really, truly must be done, I find that the necessity of such things is really far more rare than we tend to think. Youth group. AWANA. Bible studies. Homeschool co-ops. Swimming lessons. Book clubs. Play dates. Music lessons. Committees. Volunteer work. It was actually after writing out our fall calendar two years ago that I stepped back, summoned Mr. Blandings and said, "We can do all of this, but I don't want to." He agreed. We slashed our commitments to essentially just two things. And you know what?
Life went on.
We were never super committed outside of our home, but the pull was/is always there. So many good things. So many worthy things. So many fun things.
But really, I've found that some of the best days--some of the days that you never forget--don't come after an aching wait that finally gives you an annual Gotcha Day to label in orange or green. Some of them don't even come with events or activities to note.
Some of the best days are completely empty and open-ended. Almost unnoticeable. Almost. Except for those mugs of hot cider, except for that last chapter of The Treasure Seekers, except for the way the leaves crackled under the wheels of the bikes as we sampled the early morning sunshine on a crisp autumn day. On those days, my old fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants habits shine ... no dry-erase notation needed.