A Day in the Fink House

Welcome to the “Day in Our House” project! We’re shadowing the regular, ordinary days of some awesome stay-at-home/work-from-home mothers. Read about the inspiration behind this project here!

Hi — I’m Lauren. Come follow along in a regular day in our house!

Mornings are brimming with life, possibility, and easy laughter. This morning I’m getting over a cold: stuffy nose, headache, and slight irritability. But I’m happy. Here’s us: an acre in southern Michigan, 4 kids under age 7, married 7.5 years, Marine Corps officer turned civilian lawyer guitarist husband, and me — journalist, athlete, dreamer, stint professor, editor, pianist, Bible study leader, gardener, Bridge player. Guilty pleasure: gas station hot dogs. I have a deeply unrealistic optimism about the past which fuels my fearlessness. Disorganized, sanctifying, fluid, demanding, beautiful, maddening motherhood is my favorite vocation of all. It doesn’t hold me back — it’s my foundation. Oh, and our master bedroom has rose carpet and no wall hangings. But I’m optimistic about that too.

At 8:30 I kick the boys out of my room and we head to theirs. Frederick (5) helps Dietrich (2) get dressed, and I help pick up their room and make beds. A clean boys room is an essential oil. It’s powerful. And the sight of it during the longer hours of the day gives me strength.

It’s 9. This is dream baby, a.k.a. Van. He rarely cries, making me wonder if he’s mine. He ignores me while I clean my room, make my bed, and despite my headache, vacuum. It’s furious, no holds-barred cleaning. I’m not whistling or praying — I’m tearing around. I don’t always do it this way, but some days it’s just how it gets done.

My girl, Evangeline (6), catches me cleaning. She’s my sidekick at home. I notice the boys milling around and call them over to my window. I point to some riding toys on our long driveway, pretend to be worried, and ask if “bad spy guy” might use his invisible suit to steal the toys. They must be protected! Freddy, our “spy guy,” jumps into action and leads Dietrich energetically downstairs and out the door. I call this maneuver sparking the fire. I make little sparks. Then their imaginations fire up and they play with exuberance. I lived in other worlds as a child, and have a dreamy mind, so I love this part of parenting.

(Deep calming breath) Ahhhh. It’s not even close to perfect, but it’s exactly enough for this morning.

At 9:30 I choose what to wear for the day, which is crucial for practicality and mood. This hot, humid day with plans for the park + a stuffy head desperate for low maintenance = sporty, relaxed, functional clothes. I take this moment to dress. I don’t rush. Choosing the right times to focus on yourself is critical to motherhood. Unnecessary self-martyrdom is silly and destructive.

This is the nursery door. Van goes down for his morning nap at 9:45. My three other children know to never, ever open this door. And if I’m in there nursing Van, they cannot enter unless they think it’s an emergency. We are a spontaneous, fun crew, but that freedom is best within boundaries. Some are stringent. And children need that for character and survival. When I visited the Grand Canyon as a child my chances to obey “Don’t go close to the edge, Lauren” totaled one.

Ha, these are last night’s dishes. This happens sometimes.

The kids ask for leftover pasta for breakfast. Not their worst idea. I stir these three together and serve hot bowls to three happy children. Maybe we’ll have breakfast for dinner tonight!

Each day I take some time with my beloved calendar. It’s a lifeline, connected to my iPhone calendar. I make a call about childcare, think through possibilities, and gin up something social.

While kids play and Van naps, I sneak off to put on my makeup in silence. Motherhood can make you feel at times like a lonely giant stomping around tyrannical little people who don’t understand your language. A few minutes here reminds me I’m a pretty, gentle lady. Also, NARS Albatross brightener makes me extremely happy. I recommend it to everyone.

It’s 11 and we’re leaving for the park. After strapping everyone in, with air conditioning humming and music bopping, I head back in the house alone. It’s my ritual for peaceful prep — water? snack? diapers? wipes? Kleenex? Tylenol? A secret mom snack? A cherished five minutes.

I crank the classic rock. It’s the most reliable way to jam. Although, lately we’ve been working on our shoulder rolls to Meghan Trainor. Loud music keeps everyone quiet and relieves stress. Dream baby never cries during our jam sessions. Today’s favorite: “Love Stinks.”

One of our favorite parks. Ann Arbor is lovely.

These are my ladies, my leadership team for our Bible Study Fellowship class in Ann Arbor. Each one gives me a hug. We spend many weeks together praying, studying, and leading. Most aren’t my age — which I love. Oh, precious adult time! And my list of 13 new women I get to lead and love this year.

An emergency Wendy’s stop soothes my crew while I return a call to my high school bestie in Phoenix who’s pregnant with her fifth. Phone calls might be old school, but they rock my world and keep my friendships lively and real. I need real contact every day. Social media doesn’t count, since it never satisfies the deeper, warmer engagement I seek with people. I sort of hate screens.

It’s mid-afternoon, and I get a moment to “work.” I do final edits on a pitch to an editor. I roll with the little interruptions from the kids — it’s my modus operandi. I briefly question whether I’ve given this email enough uninterrupted time, read it out loud, answer yes, and press SEND. It might be in small measure or stints, but motherhood doesn’t need to extinguish all other pursuits. Unless you want a pity party. Sometimes I do! And I also pinch myself a lot — I live a charmed life.

Now it’s mid-afternoon screen time while I’m doing chores. We love the PBS Kids app. Sometimes we draw something we liked from a show. My guilt over children and TV is so 3 years ago. The day must ebb and flow.

4 p.m. This was a bulletproof coffee. Slurp.

4:30 My kids hear the typical “outside or basement” options, and I pick up. These are the main floor toys. There’s one basket upstairs. And the rest of our toys are in the basement play room, mostly on the Mommy Shelf where one basket comes down at at time. I dreamed of this in our last house where toys were everywhere. I still pick up toys a lot.

4:45 Sweeping is therapeutic and always reminds me of confession. Necessary every day.

I fold laundry in the Mackinac Room which is a space for reading and piano. It’s peaceful. Our single TV is in the basement. Four children are loud enough. I bring my Idea Notebook with me since mundane tasks make my mind restless. The notebook lassos ideas so they don’t get lost in the chaos. Lost ideas bum me out.

We get outside every day, preferably during the witching hours of 4:30–6:30 p.m. I love our acre dearly and our dead end dirt road.

Andrew gets home at 6:30 and we drive the truck 1/2 a mile to the park for a family run on rural trails that wind among meadows and corn fields. He mercifully runs ahead after a mile or so, and I can quit pretending to keep a fast pace.

Rag tag dinner: cereal, guacamole, toast, egg salad, pickles. Then it’s upstairs for the whirlwind: four baths, a search for diaper cream, Merle Haggard, back scratches, nursed baby, and then it’s quiet. Andrew gets wine and we watch a Portlandia. I like a sangria-Fresca highball with a squeeze of lime. And as usual, we resist the urge to stay up all night enjoying uninterrupted conversation. Goodnight!

Want more? Read “A Day in the Howard House