Reading, Writing, and Wandering

“…That it is possible to live in a different way: in your own way, part of the world, but not imprisoned by the rules. That you can know the ropes and yet not be hemmed in by them. That you can dwell alongside the mainstream, while not being part of it.”

From: The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas

 

Isn’t that it though? What I have spent hours and days and pages trying to figure out for and about myself suddenly appears there in a book while reading late into the night. It continues to surprise me -especially when I stumble across a paragraph that seems to have been written on  my very soul- that so many other people feel similarly. I suppose I know that I am not all that unique, not so unusual, but still. The words will occasionally be more than I can handle. They will be so closely related to my own hearts writing that it skips a beat.

I get lost in a good book. Let’s be honest, I get lost in a mediocre book too. As I read the words really do disappear and the story plays in my mind like on an old reel projector. Friends are always recommending these “self-help” books, these relevant-to-my-SAHM/homeschooling-life types of books. While I will read most of those, or at the very least skim through them so that I can absorb the most helpful parts, I don’t want to read these types of books. I mean, I do want to be my best self and I know that educating myself on my chosen way of parenting and teaching has value, it’s just that these books don’t make me want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning wrapped in their words and a blanket.

I want to read some deep fantasy over a thousand pages long. A story so enveloping the world becomes real to me. I want to have a physical ache for the characters when they die or when I come to the last page and realize that our relationship ends when I close the cover. I want to be so enamored with a book that tears freely fall from my eyes, that I gasp out loud, that I can not physically put it down. There is a deep connection when you read a good book. I would propose that the works of fiction teach us just as much about ourselves as any self-help book out there. That they are capable of teaching us more even, if we read them carefully, allowing ourselves to become a part of the story.

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic” -Carl Sagan 

I’ve written about books before. I am kind of stuck right now, I have these words that I’d like to pour out, but also I am happy just thinking my thoughts, just talking to my husband, just living out what I’ve tried to spell out over the past year or so. That piece of myself that has been writing about wandering, about getting lost on back roads, about breathing deeply has actually been doing those things. It’s been really good. Not in the way that vacationing is good, but in the way following your heart is good.

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After having read two books and several articles about why nature is important in our daily lives I was done reading about what I knew to be true, and so we went out and we lived it. This Summer has been a season of adventure and the adventures have been bold and loud and fulfilling. This Summer has been one that I have ached for, it has taught me so much about myself, it has me slowing down so that I don’t get to the last page too quickly. Because even though I know the story doesn’t end as the seasons change, it still feels remarkably akin to the last chapter in a book when you know the next in the series is still a year away from release. You want to savor every chapter, every paragraph, you simply don’t want it to be over.

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The comparisons that I’m trying to make are not super clear, I know. As I mentioned the story is here, in my head, but it’s maybe not ready to be written. Perhaps there are more pages in this book of Summer yet to live first? I sure hope so. I would come back to something that I believe I’ve shared on this page before. How the path we walk doesn’t really dead-end when we think it does. How we may need to rest or to look for awhile, but the next step is already there, we only have to be willing to move our feet. Much like the next good book to get lost in. It is likely already written, even if I’m not ready to leave one fictional world for the next, it’ll be there when I am. Yeah, it’s a reach…but it’s good to be back here writing again. I’ll get something better out to y’all soon.

in the end, she became more than she expected. she became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she simply changed directions and kept going. -R.M. Drake

 

Change of Pace

This afternoon, my sweet husband left with our little guy to enjoy an overnight at Bible camp. This makes me thrilled beyond belief because they don’t get much time alone together. The experience of sleep-away camp is one I want for my littles, but I worried about this kid. I didn’t want him to be frightened and end up hating camp completely because it is so far outside of his comfort zone. A night at camp with Dad there too seems like a perfect fit. I also secretly hope that the time spent in nature with a specific Bible focus, will help both my husband and my son reconnect with God.

I realize this is a tall order for twenty-four hours worth of time.

As I went about my afternoon I noticed that I was doing things differently. It took a little while to figure out exactly what was going on, but as I look back over the day now I see how many things I modified simply because I only had a tiny to look after. Isn’t that strange? Normally I mother from about 5:45 A.M. until roughly 9:00 P.M., sure there are a few opportunities for quiet or for rest in there, but mostly it’s keeping little people alive and helping them grow into good people all day long. Today when I put my girl down for her nap I rested my head next to hers for a full thirty minutes. Then I snuck out the bedroom door to finish a little gardening that I really couldn’t overlook any longer.

I watered. I picked beans. I watched the bees bumble about. I read my book on the deck in the sunshine. The biggest difference from my normal was the silence. I didn’t talk to anyone for her entire two hour nap. As a momma to talkative children this quiet is extremely rare, so rare in fact that I seek it out and ask for opportunities to steal it. More than just the quiet though I found myself unconcerned. Of course I always pray over the safety and well-being of my people, but today I did not need worry over what I would feed them for dinner. I didn’t care at all what time it was all afternoon; I simply had no schedule. When the teeny woke, we had a scoop of ice cream and played ponies for quite some time. She took her silly self into the pool and I watched her dunk herself under for the first time. We read thirty-seven stories and she fed the dog.

 

Our oldest child -who is really an adult- came home at some point late in the day and I directed him to the leftovers in the fridge. And you know what? He ate them. He didn’t die because I made him warm up his dinner, he didn’t even complain! Who knew!? After books we went back outside with a pb&j to share. My tiny girl and I walked barefoot around the yard stopping to pick, and eat, all of the berries we found. We admired my hard work in the garden as well as the echinacea which is taller than my toddler this year. This took the better part of an hour and when we went back up the steps to the house she told me she was ready for bedtime.

Those words are rarely spoken in honesty.

After I finally got her settled, because, really, this girl still wasn’t easy to get to sleep, I was thinking about the pace of my afternoon and how I know this is what I am continually striving for. Everything simply flowed together from one activity to the next.

Normal-Me was jealous of Today-Me.

As I was thinking over what was different, I stopped, I mean; glaringly obvious; I only had one child to manage and give snuggles to. There was no fighting or attention seeking because this girl got nearly all of me. I also had no other adults to consider in my timeline for the day, no husband, no grown kids (nearly). I didn’t worry about what time I should have the house basically put back together or what random things from my fridge I’d throw together to make dinner last minute after secretly hoping dinner would just appear on the stove at 6:30. I didn’t rush through bedtime stories for the teeny to get her to bed so that I could then read aloud to the littles and then put them to bed with the hope that my hard-working husband might still be awake so that we could have eight minutes of uninterrupted, adult conversation before bed.

What I’m saying here is that the pace was totally different.

I’d love to know if there is a way to live this…steadily?… when all of the people that I love are home and doing their lives all around me. What would have to change? I’ve tried to do the casual dinner in the Summer, last year that worked pretty well. This year with a college football player and a ten-year-old girl who eats like a college football player in the house I can’t just put out a veggie tray and a plate of meat and cheese and call it good. They need a lot more food than that. I’ve done the meal planning and it has worked really well for me for, like, eight years. Not so much this Summer. It’s not that I’ve fallen off the planning wagon so much as that I don’t want to make, or really even eat, any of the things that I normally make. New recipes have helped a little, but not enough to motivate me to cook when the weather is hot and the sun is shining.

I realize, of course, that in having a large family I will have to look at more than just dinner time if I want to change the pace of our days. I have kids who want to be very busy, as well as kids who would happily stay home most days. We won’t be able to balance that out, what we need to do is find balance within the flux, peace within the chaos…I think. I don’t quite know how I’m going to do that, but I think that I must try. In knowing that the solution of loading life into the RV and driving away is not imminently on the horizon, I must find a way of balancing myself inside of the busy, not losing my sh*t when I’m pulled in several different directions at one time. This is going to take some work.

There are activities that I have loved, that I am considering tabling for the upcoming season. There are new opportunities that encompass more of a family learning environment that I am thinking about adding in. I have other ideas as well, I may assign each of my kids a night to cook, or I may entrust more of the household tasks to them. Something I have realized through camping, is that my ten and seven-year-olds are begging for more independence and opportunities to earn trust, this desire for a smoother day may be just the push we need to make those leaps.

I’ve also been reading and learning more about the value of independent, unstructured, outdoor play for my children. I think that more fully understanding this piece of the puzzle will, eventually, unlock windows of time for each of us to do the things that cause us joy. For now I trust that we are heading down the right path with this idea, I’ve made only small changes and have noticed fewer meltdowns from my tiny. Realistically, if that were the only benefit, I’d still be all-in. Going outside more often and more consciously, has helped me remember that I really want to be outside, why am inside anyway? It’s Summer!

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Tomorrow will start early, and I fear it will be a full-of-emotion day. There will be more children, more activities, just more expected of and from me. I’m going to work on maintaining my natural rhythm though, not running ahead, or dragging along. I’m going to be more present in the moments that I am given to care for my family, and while that is an ofttimes exhausting place to be I really can trust that each moment can only hold so much. Letting go of some of the crazy is probably a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

Driving

Tonight I had to take a drive. It was bad timing to be sure. I left a fussy tiny in her daddy’s capable, but tired hands. It had been my hope to get her to sleep before I had to sneak out the door….best laid plans right?

Needless to say I was a little cranky about having to make this drive at a tough time of the day. Full of guilt, frustration, irritation at things that are so far beyond my control, I shut the door hard and climbed into the truck.

It wasn’t even three miles out of town in my baby’s truck that I realized this was a gift. A present wrapped up just for me and I was angry about it. Like, I was just given forty minutes on the road by. my. self. with music loud, windows open and sun setting behind me somewhere. I mumbled something to myself that I won’t print here, but the realization shifted how I perceived this inconvenience.

While I was out, I even had a few minutes to sit quietly in the rural, evening air. As the breeze drifted through the late evening and the sunlight shifted to a lower angle I started to compose these thoughts in my head. About how selfish I am and how much I want things to go my own way. How, if I’d just get out of the way, things might actually go much, much more smoothly.

I’ve seen a number of graphics recently displaying ideas such as; “Things I Can Control vs. the Things I Can’t Control…” I’ve scrolled past them without much thought, just enough interest or awareness to remember having seen them I guess. Now I think I’d better go back and take another look, because there might be several situations that I need to let go of. Things that maybe I was never really meant to control at all. Obviously I’m not the only one who can put the baby to bed at the very least.

It’s funny how an unexpected drive does this to me. Makes me shut my mouth and listen intently to my internal voice. Makes me wonder again at all of the tiny details that line up to create my crazy life. Makes me acknowledge that I don’t always know what is best.

So my sweet girlie and I came home to a quiet house; the teeny had zonked, the boy was ready to be tucked in, all seemed well in the world. Now as I sit and listen to the snoring of the people I love most I realize that all five of my children are under our roof tonight. While some of the stuff we’ve been working through with them has been hard, while lack of sleep is grating on nerves, while dishes pile and the grocery budget stretches it’s outermost limits…My mind realizes that this is what makes my heart happiest. These kids, this family, this perfectly timed and wonderful life that we share.

And it all started with an unplanned drive.

 

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Six Things I Learned in the Camper

My family has spent the last 20 Days living in our camper. My husband was given the opportunity to work out of town and we followed him with our new travel trailer to a lovely campground outside of Alexandria. As we prepare today to get back to our normal routine I’ve already been thinking about what’s next for us.

We don’t really know for sure, my husband and I both realized that we haven’t missed anything about our house. This is causing us to question what we want to do, where we want to live and why we didn’t know this sooner. I’ve been asking my kids what their favorite part of camping has been and contemplating what I’ve learned. In an effort to organize my thoughts, today I am sharing my top ten lessons from a short-stint on the road.

1 Flowers grow in ditches too. I will admit that I missed my garden quite a bit. Being away when the peonies and iris were blooming loud made me a teensy bit sad, but lots of wildflowers grow in this state. Snapdragons, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lady Slipper, Daisy…As I spent time wandering in state parks and campgrounds alike I realized how amazing the ditches could be. It was a reminder that my lovely, cultivated garden at home was not the only beautiful place and that I should get out and experience somewhere else.

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2 Fresh air first. When we are at home, I wake up, let the dog out, make coffee, attempt to sit in some quiet until some tiny comes upstairs. While we were away I woke, started the coffee and took the dog out. We would walk out to a grassy field and she would roll around in the dew. There is something to that. Breathing in the early morning air, watching the sun climb into the sky, listening to birds. It is a different kind of peace than what I get from sitting here, typing out my thoughts. This morning as I write, my doors are thrown open wide, Cardinals are chirping to one another, the Summer breeze is gentle and I breathe in the newness of the day.

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3 Swimming makes most days good. When I asked my littles what their favorite thing about camping was, they all answered “Swimming!!”. Thankfully we have a pool in our yard at home as well, but I must admit I was surprised by this. I mean, we did some pretty good stuff out there. Being in the pool made them all smile though. It seems almost too simple. Being able to bike to the pool only made it better. We gave our littles extra freedom while we were away and I know that helped them enjoy the time. While they weren’t allowed to swim alone, they were allowed to be at the park and in the fields without us. We even let the tiny bike around alone during the week when the campground wasn’t full. There is so much to be gained from even a little independence.

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4 Math is better, done at a picnic table. Okay, so we didn’t do a ton of formal school while we were away, but I did get the kids to sit down a few times with their math books. I found the sunshine and fresh air did distract them a bit, but really who can be irritated while sitting under a clear, blue sky? It was good to remember too, how much they learn while we aren’t doing school. Both of them learned how to empty tanks, helped hitch the trailer to the truck, and assisted with meals. They were left in charge of the tiny and were required to look after the dog. Life skills are important too, and a valuable piece of homeschooling to be sure. One of my main goals for my littlest girl this Summer, was for her to master her bike without training wheels. I knew she would be so much happier once she could do it by herself. Within three days of us leaving home she exceeded my expectations of her ability and left me wondering what I should “teach” the girl next.

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5 Shared space. While we did have some spacial requirements for our camper; a bunk for each little, an outdoor kitchen… It is still a small space. You can pretty much count on someone else always being in the room with you. I’ll admit that I was more than a little concerned about how this would go. As it turns out kids can sleep through me making coffee when I’m only seven steps away from their beds. They can climb into their bunks and ignore each other as if they were in separate rooms. We can, and did, go outside where there is plenty of room for each of us. The shared space helped us all respect each other. I’ll admit there were issues and instances to manage, but I don’t believe anyone really needed more square footage to spread out in. I really do like having my people so close, and so I am very thankful that they didn’t all hate it.

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6 Bedtime is still hard. Here I will admit defeat. My tiny girl does not sleep well, she never has and I can not seem to help her. It is just her and we deal with it as best we can. I was silently optimistic that the combination of hours of outside time and being in the same room with her siblings would help her to sleep better while we were away. I was wrong. Every night was a fight to get her to bed, keep her asleep, and keep her in her bed. This is really only one of two complaints I had about our experience and I was quickly frustrated by our bedtime routine. I know that while she may never sleep through the night, at some point she will be able to deal with it without needing me. I trust that a day will come when she lays down in her bed and just falls asleep, no songs or stories, or back rubs required. I am certain that we will eventually get to a point where she sleeps restfully, instead of the tossing and turning restlessness that is her every night…someone tell me this will one day occur!

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There are more lessons, more thoughts swirling around my brain. While I don’t believe we will be living full time in our camper just yet, I am hopeful that our eyes have been opened to something new. A different way we could live happily. Last night my tiny cried herself to sleep on our deck, she still woke a few times through the night but it was nice to not fight her to sleep. This morning I sat outside for a bit with my coffee and my people after we woke up. The clear, cool air reminding me of what I want to do with my every day. I think I might just go pick some flowers from my yard to remind me in the hectic moments that there is peace that is out there if I’ll keep looking for it.

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Nature’s Beauty

This ones mostly visual friends. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful things over the last few days and as usual I took a few mediocre pictures. It’s easy to see the loveliness of creation when you’re focused on it. Easy to notice the small when you’re looking. The trick I need to figure out is how to do so in the midst of the crazy.

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I’ll leave you with one more. As a camping family we sometimes have to sneak into Caribou Coffee, and plug in, because the WiFi at the park is not so awesome. These babies are enjoying a treat and some updates on all of the devices. Sometimes the purchased silence of technology and a coffee are as good as all of the ditch flowers out there…almost.

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Throwing Sand

So there’s this kid in the sandbox with my kids right now. He’s chucking sand all over the place. His mother has come by to yell at him several times, but he keeps on. I don’t really care. My kids have voices to tell the kid to stop if they don’t like it and feet to walk away if he won’t stop. Here’s what I’m wondering; why do we tell them to stop?

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There is always a parent telling a child “don’t throw sand!”, “don’t splash in the pool!”, “don’t climb up the slide!!”. Why? Why can’t they do those things? There are opportunities to teach respect here. If someone wants to come down the slide, make way for them. Wearing new tennies? Take them off before you stomp in the mud for heavens sake! Don’t throw sand at other people-especially if they ask you not to. It’s the unthought-out “don’t…” that gets me.

Do we even have a reason? It seems like some momma somewhere in 1972 uttered these statements and we’ve all latched on to them. How many of us actually care if our kids run up the slide? Who decided that slides were only for going down? Maybe they’re actually ramps for going up? Why do the parents get to say? Didn’t we all do these same things as kids?

Or at least, didn’t we want to?

I think I might go tell that kids mom that it’s okay. If my people take issue, they know how to handle it. Let’s just let the kids be already.

I wonder how many unnecessary boundaries we’re building for these kids. I wonder how all of our “no’s” and “don’t do that’s” negatively affect these kids. By telling them no all of the time are we teaching them that they can’t do things? Or that they can’t do things by themselves? By limiting a slides purpose are we narrowing their creative minds? I catch myself a lot. I use “does that feel safe to you?” now, instead of a frantically shouted, “don’t climb so high!!”

We were walking together the other evening and my husband told our kids to stay out of the muddy puddles. I giggled to myself because I’d been thinking so much about the “NO!”. I could understand that he didn’t want them to get muddy because we’re living in our camper and it’s new and he doesn’t want it to be destroyed. To be fair, these are realistic concerns, my littles and I wreck stuff, we just do. It’s in our nature it would seem. Through our experiences and our play and our learning; things just break. His concern over muddy feet is justified.

I mentioned that we have a hose and can rinse the people before we let them in. While he may have still felt that they should stay out of the mud, he did relax about it and was playing along with them.

At the lake with friends recently, someone threw a handful of soppy-wet sand at my teeny. She didn’t like it at all. I almost told the kid to stop throwing sand, but I caught myself. Instead I asked if she was okay and helped her tell the boy that she didn’t want sand thrown at her. Then the two of them sat and tossed handfuls of sand into the water for several minutes laughing happily together. She might have missed out on the fun if I had simply yelled at the boy.

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I am working on giving these kids more independence, more freedom. It’s one of my biggest learning goals for them this Summer. I want them to trust that they can do stuff-hard stuff. Biking without training wheels, talking with the lady at the counter to check out the paddle-boats without mom, telling that kid that you were next…by doing these things that end in fun I can see that they are learning to trust their abilities. They are learning that they really are able.

With luck, and some effort, these people will go into their Autumn activities a bit more confident. They will trust that they can do some of the more difficult math problems, spell longer words, read thicker books! Because they take these months to practice out there in real life-without me constantly telling them “NO!!”-I think they’ll have bigger successes.

I ended up not talking to that mom, she walked away though. She went over to make some lunch and our kids played together for half of an hour or more. No one got sand in their eyes, no one cried. After a little while they took their bodies over to the monkey bars and worked together to get across. It was hard, they had to use team-work, and be patient. It was fun and they were learning, and we didn’t even break anything!

 

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What Next?

The last few days have been kinda intense around here. See, we’re loading up to haul our lives out of here for a few weeks. We bought a camper recently and have the opportunity to try out the “living in it” thing over the next month. That’s only one small piece of the crazy that has been our day to day though.

On Saturday our oldest daughter graduated from high school. This kid is awesome, she has a skill set that I never will possess. I truly am hopeful that she’ll use it for good, because if she does? This kid’ll make people think, she’ll make them question what they know to be true and she’ll probably do it wearing super fancy shoes (wink wink). This was a life event that we have waited for and wondered about and tried not to worry over for years. It’s great that she did it, but we all find ourselves asking; “so…now what?”.

On top of running away in our camper, and setting a girl off on her adult path, our oldest son is moving back in for a few months. We had suspicions that he would be home this Summer, but it was a surprise when he actually called and said he’d be bringing boxes by over the weekend. I left him with a nearly empty fridge and an Aldi gift card …maybe if I’d had more than a day to prep I could’ve done better…maybe. Hopefully he’ll be alright, I mean, he’s been living “on his own” for a couple of years now, he should be good, right?

I read a post today which talked about how abnormal life paths are celebrated-once they have succeeded, but sanity is questioned when a person actually sets out on something counter-cultural. When I read it I felt as if someone on the outside understood a tiny piece of what I feel inside. I was thinking about it in the truck today though, and I wondered about my graduated girl. Am I showing her that it’s okay to not do what everyone else does? Does she know we’ve got her back if she does some wild, crazy, insane thing and fails spectacularly? How do you tell a kid that? How do you live your own life as an example of that?

When you choose to do something different, some people will judge you harshly, but quietly. A few will live vicariously through you. Some will look at you with a blank stare and say; “I’m sorry. You want to what?!?”. So far I’m okay with that, I wonder if I helped build a girl who would be able to deal with those kinds of looks, those kinds of questioning glares. As I think about that this morning, I realize that it probably isn’t just my responsibility to do that for her. Optimistically I laid a foundation. Hopefully she has other people in her life who would be willing to show her a little of their own wild dreams so that she knows that there are those who are (nearly) as wacky as me. So she sees that it is a good thing. I know that my own life experiences created me, and that she will have vastly different experiences, but I pray what she goes through shapes her into someone who is not afraid to do what she loves or what is in her deepest heart. There is little control for me to grab at in this stage of her life, it’s all on her.

While I am a little afraid of what she will have to go through to become the woman she wants to be, I am proud already, of the woman she is. I’m sure that by knowing my own crazy, she will see some tiny piece of her own path and be better able to follow it. How much more so will living my one wild life affect my littles? Will they start following their hearts freely all the more? Will they choose something more steady for themselves as they grow? As always, it is impossible to know what will come. I’m really excited to see where each of them will go, what they will do, how they will succeed.

So we’ve started out. We’ve latched on to a small piece of crazy and we are trying to live there. I have realistic expectations, I don’t anticipate all of the day to day getting much easier. There will be different challenges and new opportunities for us to grow. Some things will be harder, there may be one or two that are easier, but I know uprooting people is never easy. I’ll take the successes that come. I’ll be grateful for the little things. I’ll watch for the moments where we learn something hard.

As the sun rises on this day I am simply thankful to be out here. Following the dreams and plans my heart has hoped for. Hoping now that the people I love can understand-at least a little bit-why we are where we’re at. What’s next? Who knows?! I think I’ll start with a cup of coffee and let my heart wander a bit.

 

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