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.

return of the rainbow fairies

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This time of year the Rainbow Fairies return to us, casting their changing constant selves on the surfaces of the house.  The maple tree sheds its leaves releasing our house from the shade of summer , and the low hanging fall sun finds its way into our windows.  Outside the days are shortening as we sink into winter darkness, but inside our little red house, this same light shines more brightly than it does at the height of summer.  As we tuck in the garden and watch the squirrels filling their nests, we see the light wake up in our house and in our hearts.  Now all that we have gathered of the summer’s bounty can bloom within us.

Turning inward we find the core of our family again.  No longer scattered about the yard, hands in the dirt, but lying on the floor among the puzzle pieces or intently bent over handwork projects.  There is plenty of running into each other, of pondering how we will survive the years on top of each other in 1000 sqft.  But along side this are the miraculous moments in which we remember what a gift it is to all be here together.  That in all the many beings in the universe, we have had the good luck of finding each other.

milestones

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DSCN1513I celebrate my 33rd trip around the sun today.  After sleeping in, I woke up to these handmade cards from the family, and these special grasses that Mattheus found (over) growing along the barnyard fence.  The boys also picked this “salad,” for me, which I think is mostly purslane. lamb’s quarters and dandelion greens, with a few accidental quick weeds to add to the mix.  Opal dressed for the occasion in her two year old style.  She’s been singing happy birthday to me for several hours.  They are all out on a pastry hunting adventure at the moment.  I’m looking forward to a break from cooking dinner tonight, and a free pass when it comes to the endless piles of dishes. In a few days we will have a small gathering with family.

And that’s about it.

It’s fitting, I think, that the celebrations are passing simply and quietly.  This year life has called upon us to strip back all of the extras and focus on what is fundamentally most important to us: health, mindfulness, gratitude, honesty, striving, faith, family and community.  I’m not sure we even could’ve made this list a year ago, and so I am deeply thankful for the experiences of the past 12 months.

This month also marks a year since my first post!  I hear it all the time, but it really is true, I couldn’t have imagined what the blog would bring into my life.  I have made so many wonderful connections with like minded friends that have fed me and nourished me, struggled with me and rejoiced with me.  I’ve also realized the blog keeps me honest and it reminds me to acknowledge the deep truths that sit quietly underneath the fast flowing current of life.

I’ve struggled to find a good rhythm for writing and posting, so as I move forward into this year, I hope this will emerge a bit more clearly.  And, I hope that my connections with others will continue to multiply and deepen.  I also hope that my readers can find some support and encouragement in meeting the many challenges of life, and that they might find a small moment of peace from our hectic world here in my space.

As for the rest of it, I expect to be thoroughly surprised by what I find in my 34th trip around the sun, and second year on the blog.

Out of my many connections I have met my friend, Tiffany, who is hosting a series on Journeys in Waldorf Homeschooling.  I am honored to have been included, coincidentally on my 33rd birthday! I invite you to pop over and visit her blog.

what’s your simple?

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Somewhat by coincidence, with the Simplicity Parenting Soul of Parenting Summit this week, I’ve been ruminating a fair bit about our family’s current standing with simplicity.

Around here, there seems to be an endless movement from overwhelm to simplicity and back again.  It happens a bit like this.  I notice that one of the family is out of sorts (“soul fever” as Kim Payne has coined the term) and start running down the list of questions in my head.  Is this a developmental milestone?  Is it a seasonal transition?  Are we getting sick?  Is this burn out?  Are we doing too much?  Are we disconnected from each other?  Usually, the answer to more than one of these is yes, but over and over again, it becomes clear that most of these family challenges will be eased by slowing down and reconnecting to our family’s striving toward simplicity.  It is an evolution I enjoy participating in: the ever-present attempt at stripping away the extras so that we can stand firmly rooted in the essential.  For, over the years, I’ve come to view simplicity as a means to discovering and upholding our deepest values as a family.

And yet, practically speaking, how do we know what of these extras need letting go of?  What activities do we save for later?  When do we stretch ourselves because an experience is really worth it, even if it is outside of our usual rhythm?  How much stuff makes a home comfortable without feeling sparse?  When I ask John about his day, because I want the children to learn how to take interest and care for others, how much do little ears really need to hear?

There are no fixed answers of course.  Outside of the rules that govern home culture, each answer comes out of the weighing that happens in a moment.  But I wonder, how have you brought simple into your home?