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!

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

five and half

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Mattheus turned five and a half last month, and it seemed as if almost over night he started careening toward the “change of teeth,” developmental shift.  It was hard at first.  Surprising, as is so often true with these moments in a biography.  For a while, we wonder if life with him has become challenging because he is getting sick.  Or perhaps our lives have been too busy.  Or our rhythm too weak.  Then we gradually begin to realize that something is changing within him, and that we need to see him differently.  We begin to shift our interactions bit by bit and then life becomes a bit smoother.

We realize that the mini-teenager defiance is him asserting his own individuality.  That the moodiness is a little bit of astral awakening, and a little bit of discomfort with his new relationship to himself and the world around him.  “No one understands me!” is a common refrain, and I think he can include himself in that statement.  We begin to understand that the separation from his siblings, the way he looks at them with an expression on his face than can mean nothing other than, “they are so immature!” comes from his deep sense that he is somehow becoming very different from them.  All of this awareness is remarkable to watch and at times difficult to meet–for the most part, uncharted territory for all of us.

His temperament, which has leaned toward melancholic for sometime, is really beginning to emerge.  He craves alone time and has begun advocating for moving to a bigger house so that he can have his own room.

He experiences the smallest disappointments as calamities. Last week he greeted John at the gate with the announcement, “Papa, I have some really very awful news.  Sigh.  Long Pause.  Forlorn look.  “There are biting ants in the sandbox.”

But he is becoming more tender as well.  Full of a need for tactile closeness, hugs and snuggles and kisses.

He moves through these summer days playing alone in his bed, wrapped up in elaborate imaginative play (scuba diving is big at the moment), working on a building project, captivating us with long explanations of his life, or asking to be read to from a chapter book.  He “is really getting too old for books with lots of pictures since it won’t be too long before he learns his numbers.”  Last week we installed a shelf over his bed to keep some of this special things away from his siblings, and today he designed a new shelf to put over the posts between his bed.  John helped him a bit with the execution, but it was truly Mattheus’ show.  This meaningful work is so soul fulfilling to him at the moment.  (I did have to negotiate what could go on the shelf.  “I don’t think keeping all of your tools up there is the best idea.  What if a hammer or a saw fell on your head in the middle of the night?”  Next step?  “Well, I need my own place on Papa’s work bench where the ‘littles’ can’t get to my things.”  That we could arrange.)

He’s also taken great interest in the garden and is able to understand and help in new ways.  He’s been plucking suckers off tomatoes, weeding, cutting and bunching herbs for drying, watering, discerning  more accurately when things are ripe and increasing in his ability to identify all of the various plants.  I do so enjoy sharing this love of mine with him.

It’s truly exhilarating to watch him.  The way that a child protected from so much of the adult world emerges with a full and intact individuality.  Of course, much to learn about life, but so many of his own intentions and wisdom to share.