these ordinary things: vacation

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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John and I gave ourselves the gift of a short vacation last week: three nights on the Pacific shores of La Jolla, California.  Two days to vacate the course of our regular lives.  To forget the housework and papers in need of correcting and be free of the questioning and self-doubt that are destiny’s best friends.   Two days for new parts of the world to awaken in us what we hadn’t realized had fallen asleep.

We were lucky to do it there, where saltwater, earth and tides come together to make a place for pelicans and sea lions, palm trees and scurrying crabs.  Where arid plains and sky piercing rock are nowhere in sight.  And then, not even one full day into our trip, the report from home was dismal.  One very sick kiddo, another two close on his heals, and us 1000 miles away.  In seconds we were whisked away from this coastal haven.  Sucked right back into the questioning and self-doubt.

There are magical far away places that allow us a respite, it’s true.  But as far away as we go,  the course of our lives persistently knocks on the window of the rental car.  So we make a choice.  Pause, take a deep breath, be present.  Notice the way the surf sprays over the rocks and the sand–once shells– beneath our feet.  Or, we follow the sucking force, the anxieties of feverish children in need of a Mama or  Papa at their bedside, and we allow ourselves to be not quite transported but stuck in between where we are and where we want to be.

It’s that choice that allows us a vacation, be it miles from home, or standing at our own kitchen sinks, elbow deep in dishwater.  The choice to turn off the voice that wants us to believe that there is so much more to get done, to worry about or brood over.  Not enough hours in a day.  But there is, lots of them.  So many to fill that, sooner or later, we all need a vacation.

(Kiddos are all on the mend, as well as hard working grandparents.  Now all that’s left is to get Mama back on her feet.)

these ordinary things: hearth

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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Years of dreaming, several months of planning, a few weekends of work (yes, with a hole in the roof), some help from friends, and the wood stove is finally in.

For six years we have been transforming this neglected structure into our home.  There are the big things–two of our children were born in the room they currently sleep in.  And the unnoticed things–the daily ritual of sweeping up dust, sandbox sand and muddy boot prints.  Ensouled with all of it and every in-between, this home now has a life of its own, and in its hearth the heart’s transforming power of warmth. Not the abstract warmth of a furnace that somehow manufactures heat from the bowels of our house, but the right-in-front-of-you sacrificial combustion of sunlight and sap.

Somehow, gathered around its warmth, we find our inner selves again, so easily avoided in the endless distractions of modern life.  Then, turning outward, we hope to bring the powers of the heart with us.  And returning, we find the home fires diminished, but never quite extinguished, just waiting for replenishment.

 

 

 

 

just the two of us

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When I talk with other mamas about Opal starting preschool, they often comment on how nice it must be to have a little more time to myself.  I look forward to that someday, but it’s not quite here yet.  Instead, as each kiddo goes off to school on different days, circumstance has given us the gift of one on one time.  Every week I spend one morning with each of them, just the two of us.

Mattheus usually has a grand outing or project planned, which I say yes to when I can.  But in the in between moments–in the car, when I’m doing housework–he speaks little, or quietly to himself.  I know he’s thankful for the solitude–for a morning free of all those siblings.

Lucien thinks Mattheus’s outings will surely be wonderful, but he tires easily and quickly remembers he’s more suited to projects at home with Mama.  Our mornings together are uniquely special.  Birth order has never quite allowed us this space, and our shared joy is clear.  The kitchen is his favorite creative place, so I try to reserve some of our Monday baking for Thursdays with him.

Opal is thrilled about school and her new friends.  Often she wanders around the house whispering lists of their names over and over again.  So, she can’t quite figure out why the boys are so excited about getting to stay home with Mama by themselves.  (“Papa, today I am staying home with Mama, like Opal does!”)  She’d much rather be at school where all of the action is.  But then there’s a trip to the coffee shop for hot chocolate, and Mama actually playing at the park instead of sitting on the bench with knitting needles in hand while everyone else plays.  It might not be so boring after all.

Next Fall Mattheus will meet the teacher and classmates he will spend the next eight years with, formally marking the end of his early childhood.  And with this shift, some part of our entire family moves on and out into the world.  No longer will life be all that is home, with a bit of school, a bit of friends, a bit of family added at the last minute for garnish.  But before that, these last few months of one on one days, to pause and be grateful all the quiet chaos and humbling joy of the last six years.  I’ll take it.

these ordinary things: when plans change

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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When Mattheus awoke to find that Opal needed to stay home sick from school on Monday, he became quite the grumpy fellow.  Monday is Mattheus’s home day, and now with Opal in preschool, he usually gets Mama all to himself.  He returns surprisingly quickly to the way it once was, in those early days with just him, Mama and Papa.  Even though he was too young to remember it consciously, there is a rightness for him when he has us all to himself.

This eldest child of ours does not manage very well when plans change.  He likes life to be predictable–the day is a map he unfolds in his mind.  And from this particular change of plan, he never quite recovered.  He pushed and poked Opal and me all day.  Provoking any attention he could, positive or negative.

But in between, he was a big brother, taking little sister by the hand and inviting her into his play: a board game, knights and princesses, snuggles.  In between he tried to be flexible, accept what was.  And he grew just a little bit, just a very little bit in his humanity because he was faced with a disappointing and challenging situation.  In between, I was so proud of him.

 

these ordinary things: ebb and flow

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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There is an underlying belief about parenting nowadays: if we do everything right–build attachment, protect them from suffering, nurture self-esteem, buy organic mattresses and grass-fed beef–well, in the end, they’ll be okay.  One day they’ll be healthy, well adjusted, contributing members of society who call home every Sunday night to check in with Mom and Dad.

It’s a belief I know personally, and I’m glad it’s begun to fade into my past.  Too often it plants the seeds of perfectionism.  Anxiety replaces trust, confidence becomes guilt, and none of it does much to foster satisfaction.

Now, I look back over our days, and watch as each player tosses a card from his hand into the center.  I see how exhaustion transforms a broken puzzle into a wrestling match.  How happiness bubbles over to joy when it’s shared.  How not enough adult time equals a lost tempter.  How two and a half year old exuberance collapses into tears and the-wrestling-opponents-turned-best-friends respond with big brother hugs.  “We’re twins so that means we always love the same things and we do all the same things and we go everywhere together.  You can be a twin with us!”  Happiness.  Joy.  Wrestling match.  Frustration.  Lost temper.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Repeat.  (Also an excellent single player game.)

Conceived of our imperfect parents, we were invited into the stream of imperfect earthly life.   Here in this little red house, five imperfect people have come to know the ebb and flow of family life.  Of human life.  Just as it needs to be.

 

off she goes

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Nearly every morning last fall, Opal would fall in step with her brothers as they prepared for school, only to be shocked into tears as they drove away without her.  After all, these three kiddos are a tightly knit pack.

Slowly, she got used to the routine of waving goodbye to them as they went on their way.  But the sense of inequity never quite left her.  We would bustled around the house getting ready for church, or hikes in the foothills–outings planned for the entire family–and she would look up at us, steeling herself for disappointment and ask, “Do I get to go?”  “Yes, Opal.  You are coming, or course.”  Then she would raise across the house to another family member and exclaim, “I’m going to school too!”  “To church, Opal.  We’re going to church.”  “Oh.  I’m going to church too!”

Well here we are, a few short-long months later and Opal is finally off to kindergarten a couple of mornings a week.

It’s a moment that stirs up the first days of her life.  The first wobbly steps.  First attempts at language.  I find myself wanting to go back in time, hold them each in my arms for just a few moments.  Their new and fresh from heaven selves, who have passed into memory and become little people with successes and attempts, failures and mendings.

But this is the selfish part of me.  Joyfully watching them from afar, the rest of me understands a little better what it is to be human–the interweaving of given and created, archetype and individual, connecting and separating.  And it all starts with those few words, “I’m going to school too!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

these ordinary things: saying yes

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Throughout our days with four and a half year old Lucien, we are just as likely to be redirecting a storm of aggressive limbs and biting teeth as we are to be swept up by his expansive joy in life and heartfelt regard for everyone around him.   On the difficult days, it’s easy to fall into a kind of assembly-line-style-parenting: just get it done so we can start again tomorrow.

And then he tenderly asks if he can help (in the kitchen, always in the kitchen) and the word “No” flashes across the screen in my head.  When I take a deep breath and say yes, the connection I find heals all the moments of mutual frustration.  Not just yes to the spilled flour and egg shells in the batter, the pancake flipped halfway off the griddle, but yes to the path we are walking with him.  Aggression and tenderness.  Joy and teeth marks.  Heart force and restlessness.  Without judgement, only compassion, and saying yes to his little limitless life.