these ordinary moments: calling ourselves back

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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“From my head to my feet,

I am an image of God.

From my hands to my feet,

I feel the breath of God.

When I speak with my mouth, 

I follow God’s own will.

In all I behold,

In mother and father,

In all dear people,

In bird and beast,

In tree and stone,

No fear shall I feel,

Only love,

For all that surrounds me here.”

I’m told there is a ritual among one of the First Nations peoples of “calling back the parts of oneself that are lost” throughout the day. 

I wonder if our world has always been a place where we must fight to know and maintain our humanity.  Or is it a new struggle?  Perhaps it is modern life, the fill of superficial interactions, technology, fast pace and disconnectedness we get each day; we could live an entire lifetime of distractions and never have to ask ourselves what exactly is that thing that makes us who we are and not someone else.  Perhaps to be a human being is to fight everyday for what is human, and in our modern times, it is not the fight, but the adversaries which are different.

I do not remember exactly when we began saying an evening verse with our children.  Long enough ago that they would answer it’s been happening their whole lives.  I had a reason when we started out, that I know, but I have forgotten that reason, or rather it has evolved.  Sometimes it rekindled our necessary courage as parents,  living in a world with senseless violence and what felt like little hope. Other times it reminded us to trust and accept, to stand at peace with the world.  Very often, it simply reminded us to love and forgive each other at the end of a gnarly day. 

Always, it held us accountable to the present, to create anew within the habitual, and to face ourselves honestly and ask, after all the world tried to take from you today, “Do you still remember who you are?” 

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these ordinary moments: waiting

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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“Waiting is hard.”  One of my most used parenting refrains.  

This week, the wait was finally over for one nearly-six-year-old girl who has been eying her big brother’s knitting projects for a year.  We told her that when she was six or when she lost her first tooth, whichever came first, but not before, she could learn to knit.

Standing firm in the waiting, as a parent, is a challenge.  The nagging, pleading, whining; sometimes one wants to give in.  But, we (mostly) do not, because woven through the twinkle in their eye when all that looking forward to finally culminates in doing, is the invaluable life lesson of what we can receive when we discipline ourselves to do the right thing at the right time.  Not before, or after, but precisely now.  Only then can we know the bone deep sense of satisfaction that follows anticipation.  Only then can we be free from the impulses and whims that would subjugate us into instant and chaotic response to everything that pops into our head.  Only then can we know what is essential and what is not.

I had to wait too, and it was hard!  After all, what knitting Mama doesn’t want to teach all their babies to knit as soon as they can hold a needle?  My satisfaction was also, oh so sweet: she is the only one of the three that I got to teach myself.  And it’s a moment I will never forget. 

six year old birthday skirt

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Opal’s birthday skirt just finished blocking and I have a feeling she will love it.  Pink, purple, fancy, bold and excellent for twirling.  Should be perfect.   (You can find the pattern here.)

This was my first attempt at a picot cast on.  I must say, one of my favorite aspects of knitting is unlocking the technique of something that appears complex but is truly so simple.  There is a life lesson here, but I am still discerning what it is.

The longer we parent, the more we value simplicity.  We find it supports our well-being, our planet, and our connections with each other.  I am so looking forward to celebrating Opal and my gratitude that she picked me to be her Mama next month, with one meaningful, handmade gift.

these ordinary moments: stewards

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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“May the events that seek me come unto me;

May I receive them with a quiet mind

Through the Father’s ground of peace on which we walk.

May the people who seek me come unto me;

May I receive them with an understanding heart

Through the Christ’s stream of love in which we live.

May the spirits which seek me come unto me;

May I receive them with a clear soul

Through the healing Spirit’s Light by which we see.”

Against Fear, by Adam Bittleston

When adversity streams toward us as parents, sometimes it’s hard to know when to uphold our ideals and when to compromise.  I find this especially difficult when my ideals themselves are in conflict; to uphold one parenting ideal, I must act against another.  How do we decide when we have come to believe in our bones that both ideals are essential for our children’s well-being, but external circumstances force us to choose one over the other? 

Gather evidence.  Pray.  Trust.  Act decisively.  Don’t look back.  Repeat.

This is the only adequate answer I have come up with so far.  Maybe it’s a non-answer answer.  But, I’ve found that reasoning and intellectualism fall short in this area.  Whatever it is that connects us to the highest parts of ourselves, and allows the hard edges of our lowest selves to soften and become open to the possibility that there are forces at work greater than individual plans, this can be most helpful in such moments.  When we let go of egoism and place our trust in these forces, an opportunity can emerge out of adversity to grow and develop.  Our understanding of our children’s paths can also deepen, and we can begin to see what it is they are asking for, how their path is separate from ours, and inherently different.  Perhaps even how their own ideals are already forming.  We can remember that we are simply the stewards of the path, selflessly tending it until they can do it themselves.

eat in peace

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I was sitting in a lecture on childhood nutrition in January when I began spiraling into the food anxiety abyss.  GMO’s, toxic persistent pesticides, PH, industrial farming practices, chemical additives, “natural” flavors, excessive salt and sugar, empty calories, fatty acids, adequate protein, calcium, vit D.  I worry about these things a lot, especially as budget, time and energy are major obstacles in our ability to provide our family with the highest quality foods available.  So you can imagine my relief when the presenter switched direction in her lecture.  “So what do you do when you can’t afford all of this high quality food?  Prepare your food with love and care, and eat in a peaceful environment with your family.  How you relate to your food really does affect your body’s ability to transform it.  And say a blessing, it really does matter.”  

Phew.

This is such an excellent reminder, that food is more than its material building blocks, and that when we enter into relationship with it with consciousness, we have some ability to transform and smooth over the less healthy aspects.

I left that lecture with new inspiration to adjust our relationship to how we prepare and consume our food, and committed myself to a new mindset: simple foods prepared with care, joy in what we have, pragmatism about what we can manage without creating unnecessary stress, and letting go of unattainable ideals that detach us from the present moment.

I knew I needed an outer reminder of this inner shift, so I’ve been sneaking away here and there to put in a few minutes on a new set of napkins and placemats for the table.  My crafting mantra for the year is “I already have everything I need,” so all the fabric is recycled.  The gold and white geometric pattern was cut from the curtain panel the previous owners left hanging in the kitchen, where they had an eat-in table.  I wonder what stories it witnessed, hanging in the window long enough to fade from yellow to beige. 

Sometimes when grace is said over these placemats, they are bearing frozen waffles for supper.  Other times we revel in homemade bread and soup with biodynamic vegetables and beef.  Either way, we light a candle, say a blessing, eat in peace, enjoy each other’s company, and move on with our lives.

these ordinary moments: spring cleaning*

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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We remain in the midst of respiratory season here.  I can count on one hand the number of days that all three children have gone to school in the last month.  It’s stressful as a parent to watch our rhythm slowly unravel, and it is a chance to reorient ourselves to what is essential and renew our rhythm.   It’s also stressful to see the dishes pile up as we opt once again to read aloud to a feverish child and leave the chores for later.  But, there are simply some things that can wait, and some that can’t.  And it changes day to day.

The endless sick days, the opening of the Lenten season,  the search for cabin fever remedies, and my increasing gratitude for Why Cleaning has Meaning, have motivated me to launch a serious Spring Cleaning season around here.   

I’ve started with decluttering, in hopes that by the time Holy Week arrives next month, I’ll be able to do partake in a floor to ceiling deep clean.  We gave away or sold a lot when we moved, but the truth is, it’s hard to decide what to keep and what to get rid of, when you know that the move will change your spiritual and material needs alike.  After six months in the new house, it’s becoming clearer.  But the decision fatigue of moving still lingers, so admittedly, the attic is becoming a very exciting place.  That’s okay, it’s still a start at letting go of what we don’t need anymore, and clearing space for the new.  And as for the attic, well, some things just have to wait.   

*The Kids’ Closet (art, craft, handwork supplies, puzzles and board games, dress-up clothes, before and after.)

these ordinary moments: mud

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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Never before have I felt such joy in changing the calendar from February to March.  Hand surgery, head lice, and back-to-back-to-back seasonal illnesses have us all fighting a particularly acute case of the late winter blues.  Thankfully, it has gotten a little easier as the kids get older—at least it’s an uptick in bickering and door slamming and a downtrend in biting and toy throwing.  But I am still amazed by our depth of short temperedness with each other.  Our unkindness, selfishness, and irritability.  All of these capacities that are somehow so far from who we truly are, and exactly who we are. 

All of this is against a backdrop of what the locals are calling “the worst winter we’ve had in a while.”  What they’re talking about is a lot of ice and not a lot of snow.  All attempts at maintaining snowpack are curtailed by the fact that most storms turn into freezing rain.  In between it is often gray and bitter cold.  Or sunny with a biting wind.  Our yard looks like a moonscape as the children’s snowy tracks get rained on, iced over, and snowed on again.  We desperately need fresh air and outdoors, but when you’re shaking off body aches and chills, well, the wind chill just won’t do.

We’re doing our best to make our own sunshine.  And, the end is in sight, my friends.  The birds are returning.  A few patches of mud have appeared.  It’s still light at 5pm.  All these little inklings, they bring relief.  And something else.  We are whisked away so easily.  To bathing suits and hot pavement and shaking the sand out of the beach towels.  The urge to skip ahead is strong.

It’s also the time of year when I always feel the original inspiration of our New Year’s Intentions wear off.  It turns out that who we want to become and who we actually are, are further apart from each other than it seemed like on January 1st.  

About as far apart as February and June.

Maybe that’s why the lyrics to one of my kids’ favorite children’s songs has been going through my head as of late.  “Mud, mud, I love mud!…I can’t go around it I’ve got to go through it.  Beautiful, fabulous, super duper mud.”

Indeed.  We cannot escape the inertia and messiness of late winter and skip ahead.  We could try, but I don’t think it would work in the long run, because the more we avoid the reality of who we are at our worst, the more our best self looks like a generic ideal.  But when we penetrate and mobilize our own darkness, we can begin to find the path to our individual genius.

So bring it on.  Home stretch.  Don’t look up.  We can’t go around it, we have to go through it.  We love mud.

 

 

        

these ordinary moments: heritage

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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For as long as I can remember, this paneling has hung in my grandparents’ kitchen.  A few years ago, I sat across the table from my grandfather and joked that I couldn’t imagine my life without it.  I moved a lot as a kid, so their house was the closest I had to a childhood home—the place we always find ease and love and the gnarliness of family.

“When the time comes to sell the house, I might just cut some down and frame it, so I can hang it in my own kitchen.”

“That stuff?” he responded, his face scrunching up into the characteristic “now why on earth would you ever want to do that?” grimace.  Then he softened, his need to be a problem solver overruling his need to pass judgement, “I have some leftover in the cellar.  You can take it.” Sure enough, covered in decades of dust, it was down there.   Last week, two years after my grandfather crossed the threshold into death, I hung it up in my own kitchen.

It’s ugly.  Sometimes when I look at it, all I can think is, “now what on earth possessed you to cover your entire kitchen with this stuff?” But it’s also my heritage—the complicated pile of upbringing that falls before our adult feet, waiting to be sorted: keep, discard, not entirely sure where that goes.  Do it yourself.  Follow the rules.  Be interested.  Blend in.  Keep it to yourself.  Love words.  Work hard.  Play hard, but skip the one too many.  Put family first.  Wear it out, use it up.  Accept church doctrine.  Be critical.  And loyal with unmatched fierceness.

I wonder what my children will say to me about their own heritage.  (I have my suspicions.  “Hey, Mom, guess what?  I ate an Oreo!  And the Four Horsemen did not show up to usher in the End Times.  Imagine that?”)  Mostly, I can’t predict what they will make of their beginnings.  I hope, if nothing else, they can appreciate the trellis we have created for them; a grapevine must grow on something, if it is to grow at all.  I hope they will see that we loved them.  We did our best.  We got a few things right, and a lot of things wrong.  And we got up everyday and did it again.  Every, single, day.  I hope when they are done sorting they will know who they are, who they want to become, and how to get there.  And how to come home.

Sourdough

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The Tassajara Yeasted Bread has long been a staple in our home.  It’s delicious and reliable.  And full of commercial yeast.  I haven’t felt great about this particular aspect for a while.  But it turns out maintaining a sourdough starter and winning over small taste buds has been trickier than anticipated.  When I have managed a loaf, the kids turn their noses up at the finished product.  So when I set New Year’s intentions last month, it seemed like a good moment to tackle it with a new approach.

I opted for 100% rye for our starter and it has made all the difference.  It’s far less temperamental than wheat or spelt.  (Setting a reminder alarm to feed it at the same time everyday didn’t hurt either.)  As far as transitioning the kids, who really do love the yeasted version of Mama Bread, I opted to ease them in by using the starter as my sponge, cutting the amount of commercial yeast in half and more or less following the old recipe.  Half rye sourdough and half unbleached white bread flour have produced a loaf closer in taste and texture to what they are used to.  End result–they love it!  In fact, I’m not sure they even noticed the bait and switch.

After years of a torrid on-again, off-again affair, gluten and I are officially and permanently separated, (we gave it our all, truly,) so I can’t taste it myself and have to go on appearance, smell, feel and critical reviews, but John reports you can hardly tell the difference.  Proving time is a bit of a puzzle.  The wintertime room temperature in our house is pretty low, and the years of watching and sensing the rise of a yeasted bread don’t transfer fully.  As a result, the loaves came out of the oven a bit lopsided and with the characteristic split of an underproved dough.  And, ahem, my boule was doughy on the inside.

That’s okay, I’m sure it will all come together in time.  At the moment–the smallest and most discerning critics have approved.  I’ll call it a win.

These ordinary moments: vacation

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that deepens our hope, faith and love.  A way that allows us to create an environment in which our families can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary moments by replying below or leaving a link.”

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It’s February Vacation here in Maine, and many of our friends are off on warm adventures.  Over the years we’ve found that the stress of travel during the school year outweighs the benefits, so we opt to stick close to home.  But it is still a vacation.  A moment to let our family rhythms loosen and relax.  We embrace full days in woolie pjs.  Longer walks with the dogs.  Epic forts.  Hot midday meals.  (Which never seem to be served on time.)  We worry less about bedtime.  In fact, we lose track of what time it is.  What day it is altogether.  As the outer world falls away we find new space for ourselves and greater attention for each other.

And when we return newly to our rhythms–one of the pillars of our family life–we find new awareness of the places that need adjusting.  Where flexible rhythm has become rigid schedule.  Where an extra 15 minutes will shift the whole week.  What meals just aren’t working, and which ones just need more time for us to accept them.  How we need to adjust as the children get older.  Where we need to breathe out more fully, breathe in more deeply, and all the spaces in between.

I always look forward to the return of routine, but at the moment it’s just-because-projects and breakfast at eight.  And a big sigh of relief.  It’s a good place to be.