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.”        

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

like a weed

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When we walk down the halls of school this fall we hear a lot about Opal.  “She’s so big!” and “She looks so grown up.   Like a kindergartner.”

It’s true.  At nearly four and a half, Opal seems to have left her toddlerhood somewhere in Atlantic Canada.  She’s running with the big kids and couldn’t be happier.  We’re proud of her everyday.

I’m about a “birthday sweater” behind nowadays.  Meaning I took her to pick out this yarn on her birthday and finished it just in time for Lucien to turn six.  It’s a Cascade superwash I’m fairly certain, but I cannot seem to find the tags anywhere in the detritus of our house. Nor can I find anything on their website that quite fits the bill.  Now that I think of it, I may have steered Opal away from Cascade after poor results with Lucien’s last birthday sweater: it’s filled with snags and pulls to the point of being unwearable.   Such a disappointment after all that work and love on my part and anticipation and love on his.  I have only begun to dabble in superwash yarns, for which I have long had a bias against.  (The more processed a fiber is, the less of its natural health bringing properties it retains.)  The practical challenge of handwashing for a family of five has been the push I needed to search out some high quality yarns that I could thrown in the washing machine.  If you have any favorites, please do share!

The pattern (also picked out by Opal insisted on a dress) is Little Miss Jane.  I added some around the arm holes because I was convinced they were going to be too tight.  Of course they ended up too loose!  Ah well, room to grow, which we all deserve a little more of. Last touch was those daisy buttons.  She always loves a pop of something fancy to catch the eye.  These were our compromise.

Next up for a birthday sweater is Lucien, who turned six last month.  He’s requested yarn that “looks like fish skin” and has already chosen a set of tractor buttons (I’m learning to let go!)  Fish skin that can go in the washing machine and tractor buttons. Guess I had better get on that.

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!