buffer

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We arrived home from Nova Scotia last month to a wall of wild (ish) sunflowers on the northeast corner or our property.  We did plant sunflowers somewhere, once upon a time, not fully aware of how much they tend to migrate, but we did not plant these. Usually we allow a few to pop up here and there and clear out the rest so that the garden proper can grow.  In our summer long absence, they took over all of the raised beds, Jerusalem Artichoke patch and everything in between in this corner of the yard.

I was not entirely sold on their presence at first.  I was happy to see something growing, since we didn’t have a garden this summer.  Then I noticed the birds and honey bees coming to visit the patch throughout the day.   And slowly it dawned on me that those little circles of sunlight had created a natural buffer between our porch and the street in front of our house. A little extra something to take the edge off of the traffic racing up and down the street.  I can sit with my morning coffee or afternoon tea in relative privacy, which I am entirely sold on.

Not even two full weeks into the school year and I’m reminded just how much we all need a little buffer from day to day: the entire family is sick with colds.  Thankfully no one seems too worse for the wear except for yours truly.  Whenever I fall ill I remember that we really need to plan for this eventuality–meals in the freezer if nothing else–but then I get better and all is forgotten and somehow a belief that I don’t get sick resurfaces. Maybe it’s forgetfulness.  Wishful thinking.  Or maybe it’s a little big of succumbing to the world’s message to stay at home parents–that they have to be super human to make up for the fact that they “don’t work,” or having any “income.”  Of course working parents are expected to be super human too because they “do work.”  And then there’s the employees without families who are expected to pick up all of the slack because there’s no one waiting at home who needs help with Spanish homework.

No matter who we are, from somewhere and someone the message is always streaming towards us “there’s more you should be doing.”  Thankfully, I’ve come to recognize this voice as not my own and no longer harbor guilt around moving slowly, being mindful, doing what can be done and leaving the rest for another day.  But it is still hard to watch certain things in our family life come to a standstill when Mama is down for the count.

So what your buffers, my friends?  What do you have in place to make life a little easier? How do you work around those days when you’re not 100% and the world expects you to be? How do you make space to protect yourself from modern life?

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

any step in any direction

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Beach Meadows Beach, Brooklyn, Nova Scotia.

This post as been twisting and tangling in my head for over a year an a half.  And sitting here typing, I’d be fooling myself if I said that it is any more ordered than yesterday, or 6 weeks ago, or 6 mos.  But, amidst the tangling, I hear my father’s voice, “You can’t wait until you know exactly what you are going to write, you just have to sit down and do it.  That’s what makes someone a writer, doing it everyday.”

I suppose that means that sometimes the untangling only happens when we take a step, any step in any direction.  But what if that step only leads us to further entanglement? But? What if?

I know when the tangling began at least.  I woke up one day and was unsure of what I wanted the blog to be.  I’d been nursing a first quiet, then growing louder, sense that it wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was off.  In a world where people have no choice but to filter through endless information and sensory experiences, what did I have to write about that wasn’t a repetition of what is already out there?  What could truly be worthy of air time?  Was it possible to create a space on the internet where people could delve more deeply with consciousness into their own lives, rather than just point and click their way to the next “5 automatic steps to insert-dream-outcome-here?”

This was also the time when I was having a lot of conversations with myself and others about authenticity in blogging.  What is the balance between being honest without insensitively airing one’s inner life all over cyberspace?  What does a blog look like that has “roses” and “thorns,” and still cultivates hope, inspiration and self reflection, rather than acting as a selfish pressure release valve?

Beyond that I began to really question how I could bring to a diverse population the gifts of an anthroposophical home.  Is it possible to speak concisely and accessibly of anthroposophy and Christianity to non-anthroposophists and non-Christians without causing them to retreat?  Because, let’s face it, some of it is pretty far out there. Does one cease to speak of it at all and opt to translate?  Or does this take away a necessary voice and the freedom of the recipient of the information?

All of these questions coincided with Mattheus going through “the change of teeth”  a developmental shift frequently referred to in Waldorf circles that results in a child being less connected to home and parents and more ready to step into a larger community circle.  Knowing he would be letting go of the apron strings and going off to first grade made me acutely aware that I was sharing my children’s lives on the web for all to see.  I began to wonder what it would be like for them to grow up surrounded by people who knew things about them that they had not chosen to share themselves.  What degree of openness was I comfortable with, and when was I crossing the line into violating my children’s privacy?

The answers to some of these questions are slowly forming in my head, but are not fully baked.  So, here’s what I hope you will see in the coming months around here.  Regular articles: the return of “These Ordinary Things” on Mondays, and another entry on Thursdays.  A new title and site name.  Some reorganizing of the regular pages (I’ve started tackling the About section)  And the rest, my friends, well, you will just have to wait to find out.

I look forward to reconnecting with all of you and building new connections in the coming months!

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.