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.

 

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!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

choosing thankfulness

Today I choose to be thankful for the things I forget are gifts.

For the perpetual mess that reminds me of magical play.  For spaceships and tepees, farms and firehouses, treasures and collections.  Memories and problem solving in the making.

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For the dirty dishes in the sink and the good food we shared while laughing (and yelling and crying ) about our days.

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For the dirt tracked in on boots and dust blown through heating vents that collects in the corners and clings to the baseboards of our little red house.  This house that keeps us safe and warm.

For the daily 20 minute ritual of negotiating getting dressed with a sanguine child who, while bending over to pull up her tights, realizes that there is absolutely no better time than the present to practice her yoga poses.  Best to be reminded of the important detours in life from time to time.

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For every household task that takes 10 times longer because these children just have to work.

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For barn chores in the winter cold, and knowing where our eggs and milk come from.

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For remembering the joy we find when following the yes-to-life energy of a small child.   Small dusting of snow on a frigid day an obstacle to sledding?  Certainly not!

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And for the karma of community, family and partnership in all their forms.  For the unconditional love and measured respect we share with each other, and the moments that we bump into each other, rub each other the wrong way, step on the wrong toes.  All the little moments that propel us toward ourselves each and every day.

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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.