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: 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 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.