these ordinary moments: day of rest

“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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When did remembering who we are becomes less important than tackling the to do list?  We know it’s unhealthy enough to create a booming stress-reduction-spiritual-clarity industry which churns out the newest best practice that will transform your life for the better on a daily basis.

It’s hard to find someone who won’t share with you that they’re feeling just so underwater, or trying to keep too many things up in the air.  We’ve fooled ourselves into thinking it’s temporary, that the work load will shift, that just around the corner it will be easier.  Quieter.  Somehow, that day never seems to arrive.  Not quite.   Because missing out takes courage and sacrifice.

Our day of rest has evolved over the years.  I wish I could incorporate all of our sabbath moments every weekend because they all bring health in their own way.  Alas, that would not be very restful!  These days, when the weekend rolls around I simply ask myself, “what do we need today to help us remember who we are?”  Housework is a surprising favorite at the moment.  And whatever kiddo project requiring a jigsaw which must be completed in an afternoon.  (Alien invasion space scene hung from the ceiling of Lucien’s loft.)  Top it off with a good old fashioned walk in the woods, and we are as ready as we are going to be to take up the sword and shield again for the week ahead.

What about you, my friends?  Do you have a day of rest?  Sabbath moments?  What do they look like for you?

 

 

 

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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.”        

centering down for Michaelmas

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“Strongly I will think, will remember often, how within I’m vitalized by all primal spirit strength, will strongly sense within me weaving soul and power of will, will reflect in stillness how I can find a hold in my heart’s depths when my soul, quiet in itself, rests and also strongly acts out of itself.” by Rudolf Steiner, “The Heart of Peace”

I’ve been reading a great book: “Living the Quaker Way,” by Philip Gulley.  A friend recommended it after my post about searching for buffers in this chaotic world.  In his preface Gulley writes, “I’m not inviting you to a church but to a life,” built upon the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality.    And it’s in these pages I’ve learned the phrase “centering down,” a common practice before a Meeting of Friends.  (Although we don’t have a name for it, it is also what you’d experience 15 minutes before the service if you were to attend The Christian Community.)  It means choosing to create the quiet needed to reconnect to one’s inner life, making more space for whatever divine or higher presence guides you.  And, according to the author, it need not be sitting in silence.  While he described his experience with walking meditation, a vision of yarn and needles came into my mind.  The familiar feel of them in my hands became a life line during the family’s bumpy transition back to urban life and school.  I do also love to sit in silence, a more traditional centering down, but it comes much easier after the rhythm of knit and purl have passed between my hands for a few minutes.

Between that and the unfinished projects I discovered while clearing out a fiber moth infestation, there is a lot coming off the needles these days.  This Striped Linen Stitch Cowl, however, I finished up over the summer.   I received the yarn (a Mountain Girl Yarn, whose Etsy shop is currently on a little break) as a gift from my friend Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness, a few years back.  I don’t receive yarn gifts often, so I when I do, I am always tempted to extend the gift by making something for myself.  I had a few other projects in mind and actually started one and pulled it out before I settled on this cowl.  I’ve been wanting to take on a linen stitch project for a while and this one was perfect: since it’s in the round I only had to learn half of linen stitch!  It proved the perfect repeating-pattern-travel-companion for about a year.  I took it with me to Ann Arbor, and Nova Scotia, and tossed it in my carry-on when I came back to Denver in July for my training program, then, back again to Canada.  All the while I wondered if I was going to be able to double it around my neck.  I started with not quite enough yarn for the project, by my estimates, so I cast on a few less stitches, fingers crossed.  Excited to say that it does tightly, but still comfortably, go around twice!  We’ve had an uncharacteristic rainy week and it has been so lovely to pull this out.

I wish I could say that I’ve been outwardly preparing for Michaelmas while wearing it, but alas, no.  One myth of parenting I am beginning to really understand: it does not get easier as the children get bigger, it just gets different hard.  What the children once needed in physical care–diapers, feeding, shoe tying–they now need in emotional care.  I find it equally difficult and more complicated, and draining all the same.  Which is why our nature table at the moment consists of left over pictures from Lucien’s birthday (in August) and a vase of flowers from Nana’s garden that should’ve made its way to the compost days ago.

I am thankful for the years when I’ve had more space for dragon bread and harvest activities, because I think they are part of why I have an inner relationship to Michaelmas.  A simple, enigmatic relationship with the courage to act; the courage that He can plant within our hearts.  For some, those actions may be loud–taking to the streets.  But let us not forget the others.  The ones carving out a simple, conscious, life, in partnership with the Spirit, an act that goes against every grain of our more-faster society.  Let us not forget the courage and sacrifice it takes to turn off the device and “center down,” making room for whatever it is that reconnects us to our best and most authentic selves.

That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow afternoon.  Come join me on the porch if you’re passing by.

 

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.

 

 

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: ebb and flow

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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There is an underlying belief about parenting nowadays: if we do everything right–build attachment, protect them from suffering, nurture self-esteem, buy organic mattresses and grass-fed beef–well, in the end, they’ll be okay.  One day they’ll be healthy, well adjusted, contributing members of society who call home every Sunday night to check in with Mom and Dad.

It’s a belief I know personally, and I’m glad it’s begun to fade into my past.  Too often it plants the seeds of perfectionism.  Anxiety replaces trust, confidence becomes guilt, and none of it does much to foster satisfaction.

Now, I look back over our days, and watch as each player tosses a card from his hand into the center.  I see how exhaustion transforms a broken puzzle into a wrestling match.  How happiness bubbles over to joy when it’s shared.  How not enough adult time equals a lost tempter.  How two and a half year old exuberance collapses into tears and the-wrestling-opponents-turned-best-friends respond with big brother hugs.  “We’re twins so that means we always love the same things and we do all the same things and we go everywhere together.  You can be a twin with us!”  Happiness.  Joy.  Wrestling match.  Frustration.  Lost temper.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Repeat.  (Also an excellent single player game.)

Conceived of our imperfect parents, we were invited into the stream of imperfect earthly life.   Here in this little red house, five imperfect people have come to know the ebb and flow of family life.  Of human life.  Just as it needs to be.

 

these ordinary things: saying yes

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Throughout our days with four and a half year old Lucien, we are just as likely to be redirecting a storm of aggressive limbs and biting teeth as we are to be swept up by his expansive joy in life and heartfelt regard for everyone around him.   On the difficult days, it’s easy to fall into a kind of assembly-line-style-parenting: just get it done so we can start again tomorrow.

And then he tenderly asks if he can help (in the kitchen, always in the kitchen) and the word “No” flashes across the screen in my head.  When I take a deep breath and say yes, the connection I find heals all the moments of mutual frustration.  Not just yes to the spilled flour and egg shells in the batter, the pancake flipped halfway off the griddle, but yes to the path we are walking with him.  Aggression and tenderness.  Joy and teeth marks.  Heart force and restlessness.  Without judgement, only compassion, and saying yes to his little limitless life.