these ordinary moments: birthday cake

“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 allows me to 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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Confession: kids in the kitchen, not one of my favorite parenting jobs.

I love the idea of kids learning about process and transformation, and I know that involving them in growing and preparing their own food ensures healthier eating habits, but the reality of kids in the kitchen makes me cringe.

Part of my hesitancy is our 8′ x 10′ galley kitchen which contains about six square feet of counter space, none of which ever seems to be clear.  Navigating the space by myself is enough of a challenge.  But it’s more than that. What I love about cooking is the weaving together of precision and attention and intuition.  The exact moment the muffin batter goes from just right to over mixed.  Or the stir fry crosses from crisp tender to mush.  The difference between 1/2 and 3/4 of  a teaspoon of vanilla.  Just enough whey, butter and salt in a pot of soaked grains.  It’s not the flour on the floor or the egg shells in the bowl that send me inwardly reeling,  it’s those little sticky hands fumbling about right in the middle of the flow of a sacred exchange between me and food.  An exchange I want my children to know, but struggle to teach to them when what I really want is to snatch the spoon out of their hands and fold in salt and oil myself.

Naturally, two of my children always want to help in the kitchen, so they’ve gifted me a great opportunity to be conscious of why it is hard for me.  I felt guilty about it for a long time.  Now instead, I set aside items that they are always invited to help with and know that it will be a different experience and that’s okay.  One of those items is birthday cake.

We’ve never made a hubbub out of half birthdays, so I was surprised on Thursday when I told Opal she was officially four and a half and her reply was “I get to help make the cake!  I want chocolate with chocolate frosting!”  In her mind it was a matter of course.  In my mind, I was preparing for a weekend cold weather camping trip and really didn’t want to think about cake and sugar highs.  But I try to say “yes” whenever I can, so I took a deep breath.  “When we get back from our camping trip we’ll make a cake.”

On Sunday afternoon we set to work baking.  And knocking the rice cooker off the never clear counter, sending it crashing to the floor.  And falling off the kitchen stool with a full 1/2 gallon glass jar of milk in hand.  And asking a dozen times if it was time to lick the spoon.  Or the bowl?  Or the beater?  And prematurely turning the mixer on high, sending flour to corners of the kitchen that will probably never be cleaned.  And sneaking back into the kitchen to suck frosting straight out of the pastry bag.  Yes, straight out of the bag.

I managed to keep my cool.  Mostly.  And she managed to be one proud four and a half year old when we put that cake out on the table.  “Doesn’t it look so good, guys?  I got to help make it.”        

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these ordinary moments: hand written note

“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 allows me to 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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After Las Vegas, I turned away.  I stayed off Facebook.  Unplugged the radio.  Tried not to talk about it.  I’d like to say that I was protecting myself and my family from carrying it around in our imaginations, and perhaps I partly was, but mostly, I was filled with powerlessness.  What is the point of paying attention, of opening yourself up to all of that collective pain, if you can’t do anything about it?

As the days passed I kept telling myself that powerlessness is a feeling, not a reality.  I cannot single handedly change gun laws over night, but I can take my kids to hunter safety class.  I can teach them the respect of handling a bow and arrow; the powerful finality of a gunshot.  I cannot rid my children’s world of door buzzers and 6ft fences and lock down drills, but I can teach them that the more walls we erect, hiding from other and different and what-ifs, the more we perpetuate the cycle of isolation, fear and violence.   I can show them that courage, human connection and devotion to peaceful interaction are the only true weapons we have against fear, isolation and violence.

Because, as a homemaker, I’m in it for the long haul.  The steady, small and unnoticed work of creating an example for my family of what is most human.  Praying that this world will not destroy them before they are powerful enough to change it.

Undoubtedly, the most difficult task of the homemaker is being the family’s source of goodness.  Yes, we are imperfect, we are propped up by spouses or grandparents or best friends.  But at the end of the day, when everyone returns to the hearth circle licking their wounds, deep down they depend on us to be the healing balm.  It is a burden, but it is also a gift: we can never sink into the paralysis of powerlessness for more than a few moments.  We have no choice but to seek out our own balm.  Summon our own courage.  Forge our own strength.  For them.

In search of something to keep me going, I pulled out my stationary and began writing to a very dear friend, with whom I have fallen out of touch.  I did not write about Las Vegas.  What I did write was my self into that brief hand written note, knowing that she would read it, carrying a piece of my heart with her throughout the day.  Weaving our friendship deeply into the fabric of a world fraught with separateness.  Knowing that this connection could balance the scales of humanity in some grain-of-sand-way.  Hoping that it will all add up to enough.

 

 

 

 

 

these ordinary moments: buying garlic

“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 allows me to 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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I bought a bulb of garlic last week.  This would not be a momentous event for most, but it is the first bulb of garlic I have bought from the grocery store in over a decade.

When John and I moved back to his childhood home of Denver over 10 years ago, I needed to put down roots.  Literally.  At that time in my life I could not imagine connecting to a landscape without putting my hands in its dirt.  So I sent off an email to the owner of Keith’s Farm in upstate New York where I worked two partial seasons, and asked if he’d be willing to sell us some of his famous garlic.  I promised him that my regional location would create no business conflict and he obliged!  That story, and the evolution of the Reinhart Family Garlic, are the subjects of my first ever blog post.  (Look how young they all are!)

Last fall, when it was time to plant garlic, the moment quietly came and went and no garlic went in the ground.  Without pomp or ceremony, 10 years of tradition slipped into the past.

Looking back I can see that the subtle way in which this moment passed signified a new relationship to this place where our little farmlette sits.  For years we’ve alternated our summers between here and the East Coast.  Sometimes tending our garden and flocks, sometimes fleeing to salt air and rural life, needing to patch up the holes carved into our beings from this hot, arid landscape.  This year we just seemed to need oh so many more patches, and we left behind the farmlette for nine weeks.  Someday, perhaps, I will share our adventures, but for now, I will just say that it is unlikely we will pass an entire summer in Denver again.

Which means, no garlic.  No watching the scapes shoot out, or form into their tiny bulbs. Or ripe tomatoes cracking beyond fullness.  No more shepherding the children out of the garden before they have tomato tummy aches.  And, we are currently figuring out how to get the children on board with sending our hens to a neighbor’s soup pot.  (The economy of old laying hens simply does not add up when the family spends most of egg season buying eggs in Canada.)  The goats will be the hardest sell.  For all of us.

I try to gaze upon it all with grace as I silently lament how much more difficult store bought garlic is to peel.  (No wonder there is such a market for that minced stuff in the jars.)

It’s not so much letting go of the past that is hard, it’s letting go of a future that never had the chance to come to fruition.   But there are trade offs.  Always trade offs.  The future that needs to be, can only be when we realize that it is flexible and changing because we are.  It doesn’t feel great, to watch one future dissolve before a new one has formed, but somehow it seems necessary.   And it is Michaelmas, a fitting moment to summon the trust and courage needed to step through the doorway into the unknown.

I’m doing it as best as I can, store bought garlic in hand.

these ordinary moments: afternoons on the porch

“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 me and 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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The transition back to urban life and school has been unpleasant.  Tantrums, tears and “so and so hit me!” are my daily soundtrack.  It plays on repeat in my head while I sit in traffic after drop-off, pondering how I can help it all go more smoothly, wishing I could find more grace.

After the commute, a (half) school day and a nap, the afternoon marches on towards supper prep.  It’s not unusual to realize in the midst of good nights that a day has gone by without any quality one-on-one time with a particular child.

My feelings about all of this roll around as if in a cement mixer: a messy aggregate of values trying to form a coherent pourable material.  At odds with each other, they simply keep churning, no freshly set sidewalk in sight.

So, until the sidewalk is ready to be poured, there are afternoons on the porch.  While the children rouse from their rests I boil water for tea and prepare “dessert.”  (Our fruit based afternoon treat)  Then I head right out with my handwork and we all sit. Sometimes the children have a story from the school day.  Sometimes there is a request for a book to be read or a plan for a project when Papa comes home.  Last week it was paper airplanes waiting to be folded.  Some days they quickly inhale whole peaches, dripping sticky juice down their fronts, and run off to the trampoline leaving me sitting in silence, an entire hot cup of tea still waiting.

Whatever passes between us in the moments, it’s heartening knowing it will be there most days.  That amidst the going all directions there will be space to connect to ourselves, each other and our values.

And that, my friends, I do believe is what you call a buffer.

 

 

these ordinary moments: the wait is over

“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 me and 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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Once per summer we make our way to the ancient amusement park in our neighborhood for some good old fashioned bacchanalian revelry.  A few years back Mattheus became fixated on the bumper boats.  At the time he wasn’t tall enough to ride them, and so the refrain the past few summers has been, “I wonder who will be tall enough to ride the bumper boats this year?”

After much anticipation, it was finally Lucien’s turn.  When John saw that the line was pretty long and moving slowly, he suggested to Lucien that perhaps they could go ride something else and come back a little later.  Lucien’s answer?  “I’ve waited long enough, Papa.”

What is different about the pure and simple joy that passes through us when we’ve had to wait for something?  Is it that our desire has the time to deepen and mature, allowing our joy to do so as well?  Whatever it is, in a world of instant gratification, sometimes it sure does feel good to wait.

 

these ordinary moments*: marking time

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“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 me and 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.”

John and the kids went back to school two weeks ago.  One short week after we returned home to Denver from our nine week road trip to New England and Atlantic Canada.   We had planned to be back a bit earlier, but life, as you know, has its twists and turns.

As the first official day of school hurtled towards us, amidst teacher in-service meetings and school supply lists, unpacking and reclaiming the farmlette, I couldn’t help but wish we’d given ourselves a little more space to transition from the agenda free, family filled days of summer, to lunch boxes and alarm clocks and going different directions.  The days were passing, we were not ready for the change, and I could feel it acutely.

Then Mattheus brought us the answer.  He woke up a day or two before the beginning of the school year and reminded me, “You know, Mama, we never had our last campfire, and you said we could have it when we got home, remember?”  He was right.  On our return trip everyone was a bit traveled out, so we traded extra camping activities for better time on the road.  But for Mattheus, camping is only camping if you cook your supper over an open fire, so we had promised him a campfire upon returning home.  “A nice way to finish the summer,” we had told him.  I just needed a little nudge as to how true that was.  The clear simple voice of a child to cut through all of the din of preparation.

It wasn’t a big moment.  No ceremony or scrapbooks.  No signs saying “first day of second grade” or growth measurements.  These are all lovely, mind you, and in an ideal world I’d do a few more of them, but sometimes it’s enough to just stand around the fire in stillness, looking each other in the eye, silently licking sticky fingers and acknowledging that these are the last marshmallows of the summer.   Watching another moment come and go, and wrapped into that short moment, all that has been and all that will be.  Knowing that we’re not quite ready, but we will be.

*For my regular readers, you’ll notice the change in title.  In an effort to move away from the material aspects of homemaking and towards the inner work of the homemaker, I’m going with “moments” rather than “things” from here on out.  I look forward to sharing with you!

 

 

 

 

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.)