Beach Days

I’ve been practicing seeing the moments as they fly by me. The past couple of days are a good example of that. So many times I’ve thought about how grateful I am. Even though I had a bad attitude for most of this day and felt overall, in general “blech” there were so many times I felt supremely over-blessed.

First of all I get to wake up in my camper, on a beautiful piece of quiet land. I mean, who’s husband does that? Volunteers to help at a store that is failing, struggling, so that his girl can camp for six weeks?! I guess mine does and I can’t help but know how selfless that is.

Second I get to sit at the beach…in the sunshine…not really doing anything. Sure my kids were whiney and needy and the teeny did lose her cool more than once, but we were at the beach for crying out loud. Do I have any right to complain if I sat on the beach all afternoon? I’m thinking that’s a unanimous “NO!”, right? While I would’ve liked to read my book and take a nap, it was a gift of a day and I can not deny that.

If I typed out all of the small moments that have made these days NOT worth whining over this post would be crazy long. Here are just a couple; I made an amazing sandwich on focaccia (don’t judge my lack of carb restraint) from the local farmers market (yummm) and ate it at the picnic table in SILENCE! I grabbed a great Summer food book at the library, where my dog was not insane for twenty minutes. I sat outside after kids went to sleep with the man I love, I watched a hundred dragonflies dip and dive in the shade. Those are just a few highlights, but man I should not have been the moody, cranky person that I was yesterday.

Today I’ve been I smidge more present. I’ve seen the good and the not-so-good and I’ve not let one outweigh the other. As the rain has held off today we have done some workbook work outside, ran in for more good bread and to check out the local thrift store (where we scored Harry Potter Uno for two bucks!!). The tiny also melted down in epic fashion because her brother bumped her. One child refused to swim because there were people at the beach (wait…what??), and one of the children may be answering all of my requests with negativity bordering on anger (deep breath).

I’ve decided that I will take this trip one day at a time and enjoy all of the moments that I can without letting those annoyances get the best of me. We are settling into our new rhythm and finding the pace that we can sustain on the long hot days.

It is a pretty slow pace to be sure. This has me wondering if I should be doing more with the children, or if I should be working harder, or if I am taking advantage of my situation. All of that makes me think about the kind of childhood I’m trying to facilitate, the kind of life I’d like my whole family to be able to lead. That’s a post for another day though, we are off to the local library now…and then more sitting at the beach I think.

Beginnings and Circles

I sit here typing on my phone-something I really dont like to do. The keyboard always works against me adding letters and slurring my words. I have to proofread very carefully so that the autocorrect feature doesn’t make me look like a moron. It’s a frustratingly slow process, and you’ll still probably catch several errors that I’ve missed.

Today is the day though. The day we begin. The day we set out. The day where we put all excuses aside and go. All of the things have been packed, which is why I am typing on my phone. Most of the things have been cleaned, though not very well. None of the groceries have been bought, but the stores will open soon. If everything works perfectly this is the first of many nights I’ll fall asleep with my head in my camper bed.

I was up early today, sipping my coffee, waiting for the birds to wake up and begin their singing. Sitting in the stillness, seeking a bit of peace and a restfulness that did not come while sleeping. As I tap out these lines I wonder if everything is ready?

…if we are ready.

There is a lot a person needs to do to walk away from their house for six weeks. Most of it is done, but likely not all. I’m not sure how often I will wake in a panic realizing some thing I have left undone. Hopefully not too many. Hopefully I don’t think much about this place at all.

The most difficult part for me is the people, as I knew it would be. Leaving this community makes me cautious. I know I can leave this over-large house with all of it’s sweeping and scrubbing. I know that I can (someday) leave Minnesota and it’s frigid temps without any sadness at all. I can even leave the gardens I’ve cultivated for going on seven Summers; though that one is a close second. The women in my circle though…I’m not sure what life will look like without their daily influence.

In this modern-American culture we tend to think that we can do everything by ourselves, and that we should. I’ve written about this before (here and here and especially here), but community can not be ignored. Indeed it should not. As I think about the ways my people have built upon each other I am overwhelmed. I know we have our struggles, our difficulties, our disagreements; we do life together after all, but the good in the group outweighs the bad of being outside of it.

In the past few weeks I have dug berry plants for and with friends, I have been delivered wood chips, I have gifted garden accessories and other small treasures, I have been saved from an empty gas tank, and I have sold off a million pieces of my life to these friends. I have people to pray for and people who pray over me. I have friends whom I message daily and those whom I wish I could touch base with more often.

This. This I will miss a lot. This I may regret leaving.

I will miss sitting, tucked away in a corner of a yard while children run and scream. I will miss a friend dropping by to my messy, chaotic house with no worry over it. I will miss all of their children. I will miss rushing to a planned event because I want every possible minute with these women. This worries me, makes me think I can’t do it. Can’t really go for good, isn’t that messed up? I mean it’s not, but I spent all of these years aching for this community only to finally have it and then to come to a point where I am in a position to go where my heart calls. Which requires me to start over on so many different spirals of life. Maybe we always need something to cry out for?

I was telling a friend recently how I was nervous to walk away for this season and she kindly reminded me that we will still be together, if not physically. She noted that my circle may be a couple of hours away but that the values we share will hold us close. She was right of course. We will have to work harder to maintain friendships, but they can be maintained. Even grown.

This opportunity to travel (even a bit) and to live smaller is something I have longed for, as most of you know. I can’t pass it up. The need to follow this path and see where it leads beats within my very heart. Who knows what we will learn over the next few weeks? I am excited too.

Often I get stuck in that worrisome place. Seeing only the difficult part of the adventure ahead. I don’t want to do that with this. This chance to be out there, living something that has long called to me is exciting. I see that too. I will be concerned over walking away from dear friends, but! Instead of only worrying, I plan to work. To work on building a larger community for myself, for my family. I mean, there are people everywhere, and most of them probably want the love and the connection I am fortunate enough to feel every day. So, I’ll try to bring it, to build it, to create it.

I’m praying for this opportunity right now. I dont want to get bogged down in the sadness of leaving my people, and I dont want to simply find new or different people. What I am hoping for is complex, I know. That ever-widening of the circle will be difficult to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it too. If you’re close, you know there are still many miles to go but I thank you for being here on the path with me.

And so today is the beginning. The start of a wider circle, a wilder path, a larger wonder.

Or maybe tomorrow, the rain forecast for tonight looks pretty severe…

The Seeking of Quiet in the Midst of Loud

Quiet is important to me. Having my own space to be alone so that I can think, holds value to me. I also really love being surrounded by my people. Having them near me, in the same room, while they do their own thing helps me feel the love we have for each other. As I was making dinner last night it struck me how independent my kids are, yet how much they want to be together. These three are still young. I know their desire for space and privacy will increase in the coming years, but I am very grateful for how much time we spend together.

The two of them, always right here.
Ignoring the world.
What we do while momma reads aloud.

If you’re new here you should know that we unschool our youngest three kids; this means that I spend every waking hour (and a lot of the ones when we should be sleeping too) with my kids. I read this stat recently that sort of blew my mind. In the article I’ve linked from the Washington Post they are discussing how quality time with your kids is better than the quantity of time spent with your kids. The fact that jumped out at me though was that the average mother spends 13.7 hours per week with her child. That’s not even two hours per day!

I know that some of you who read here don’t homeschool your kids and I know that the opinions I throw out here randomly have a tendency to irritate. This is just one chart after all, is there any truth behind it? A simple Google search will answer that question for you, probably in the exact way that you’d like the question answered too. The data field is filled with so much information that it is overwhelming. I am certain that there are a lot of parents who work outside of the home and who traditionally school their children who spend more than two hours per day with their kids. I’m not here judging any individual, rather America as a whole. Why is raising up children in the way they should go so seemingly, unimportant? Do we simply believe that someone else can do a better job growing our kids? Do we lack trust in ourselves? This is such a mystery to me.

The number got me wondering though. My kids are home, in my care all of the time. So I tried to add it all up and here’s my number of hours spent with at least one of my children per day: 13.5 . While I didn’t subtract out the occasional Sunday afternoon where I sneak out to write or read a book in complete,utter, and blessed silence. Or the hour I get on Monday mornings when I head over to pick up my girl. I also didn’t add in the multiple middle of the night wakings, the mornings when my teeny is awake at five AM or the evenings when I read to my kids until 9:30. So in case you didn’t see that number, I spend the average American mother’s weekly amount of time caring for her children in one day. That means I spend 94.5 hours with my kids every week.

As my boy used to say, Holy Maca-Roni!

I would argue that stat again here, stating that there is no way that the amount of time I spend with my kids does not influence them at least as much as the quality of our time together. When you give all of your waking hours to your little people there are going to be great, enriching, educational times. They are going to learn who they are and who they want to grow into. They will learn your values, morals, standards and decide if they want to internalize those same ideals or not simply because they are in your presence. They will also be bored. They will feel that things are not fair. They will always want more even when you believe you have poured out every, single last drop from your own pitcher.

Even now, before six AM, my teeny has come to snuggle in next to me. Stealing my time with her sweet little wants and needs. Of course, you’d be right in arguing that all of those 94 hours are not spent specifically on the caring-for of children. At least you’d not be entirely wrong. I have a friend who says; “It doesn’t matter that the kids are off playing on their own and I’m washing the dishes. I’m still “on”, still listening to them play, noticing the cues, realizing they’ll want a snack soon…”. I would describe my mothering as exactly this; giving my kids the freedom to seek God’s will for their lives while I am “on” at a distance. I’m here, all of the times they need or want me, but I send them out to be themselves as much as possible. It’s important to me to note that I have also spent a lot of hours guiding my kids in being independent, or, maybe, allowing independence to be the result of our activities, is a better way of putting it.

In this intense amount of time that I spend with my kids I have worked hard to teach them to be quiet. Not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. I feel like so many kids in this time really have no idea how to be alone with their own thoughts, how to sit with their own boredom and search out their own hearts. I spent a lot of mornings teaching my little boy that first thing in the morning we grab a blanket and a water bottle and snuggle into a chair with a good book. Now he does this throughout the day as he recognizes his own need for a little down time. I am grateful for the time I sacrificed to teach him this skill.

My oldest little frequently slips headphones over her ears and tears through the pages of a novel. She has discovered the need of silence on her own. Living in the middle of bigs and littles I suppose one should expect that. Now that my teeny is four I have been working to lead her to the want of quiet. She is currently resisting in a way only she can. She starts talking three minutes after she wakes and she is loud and opinionated for all of the minutes after that, right up until falls asleep next to me. If she is not vocally loud, she is desiring of all of my attention in other ways that cause me to be constantly aware of her presence. This is not a quiet child. Not yet.

I will continue to coax her toward her own space, her own time. I will invest in this because I see the value of it. When my older kids sit down alone with books or games or Legos in the afternoon, I know they are resetting for the rest of the day. They are giving themselves a bit of peace in a world that has devalued this. We try not to use the quiet time up with screens, though it does happen occasionally, because the nearly 100 awake hours in our week offer up plenty of time for that. I try to remind myself that in teaching them to be still and quiet I am giving them a gift to carry with them always. Because we practice this regularly, I trust that they will feel the value of silence even after they have followed their own paths away from me. They will seek it out, fight for it.

There are times I feel like my house is so loud. That I must escape the constant clamoring for my attention. When I am aware though, and not completely overwhelmed, I see each of them sit quietly for a few minutes throughout the day. I see the peace wash over them as they do this. I am able to soak a little of that peace up myself and I am glad. For them and for me. After all, let’s be honest here; Momma’s really do just need the quiet.

Peace to each of you this day. May you seek it out. May it make it’s home in you.

Snatches of Time

I put all of my people to bed early tonight. I had ambitious hopes of coming here and writing out the cries of my heart. Nearly an hour later I am still up and down the stairs with a child who feels less than wonderful. I am frustrated by this because I really needed the time. Instead of tapping away peacefully I am scribbling snatches of thought between whispered prayers and requests for essential oils. I see the selfishness in this rant. I really do.

I have been holding off on writing, feeling as though the time would come if I let life flow naturally. We aren’t so busy, the days are not over full, the time seems to skip happily away while I play Legos with a little or read endless chapters to fill their imaginations.

I know what you will say; this is a momma’s most precious work! Her most important job! Be grateful!

I am.

I agree.

I still want something more.

While this rambling will likely never support my family, how can I know that when I can’t even steal an hour at the end of the day to type out a coherent thought? When and where (and most of all how???) am I supposed to build an audience when I can’t build a proper paragraph for lack of focus?

I have my excuses it’s true.

I don’t mean to have quite so many.

I’ll admit to being distracted plenty of the time. With projects. With Facebook. With catching up on years of lost sleep. Still, it seems I should be allowed this time for me. This time to do something that makes me feel like I’m intelligent. Something that is meaningful to at least a few of you dedicated friends. Something that let’s me deal with the anxiety and fear and despair that creep in during the darkest months of the year.

What to do? I feel the call of the early mornings again. Though I despise waking before the sun or at least before six AM, I know that my house is quiet then. Children typically don’t stir early. Devices need to be charged. Tasks must be quiet so as not to wake sleeping babe’s. This frustrates me, I do not want to give in to that time of day. It seems that I must though. No other hours will relent their needs.

If you notice a few more posts in the coming weeks, you can assume that I have given in to the deepest cry of my heart -the desire to create something from myself, from who I’ve learned that I am- and that my heart has won over the logical side of me who really loves to snuggle back into the comforters every morning.

If you don’t hear from me for awhile, don’t be too disappointed, there are lots of words out there. Trust that the right ones will come to you as you need them. I’ll keep etching out moments, minutes, corners of time that will continue to build my story, and make my own spilled out thoughts that less rambling once they meet the page.

A Solstice Rambling

What keeps you here? I’d really like to know. As I sit this morning on the day with the least light available to me, the universe sees fit to roll clouds across my sky. I wonder again what keeps me here. I can rattle off a quick list; friends, family, homeschooling laws, summers in the woods, a job that pays the bills, the flowers in my garden…do all of those things outweigh the darkness though?

This is the question I’m sitting with on the darkest day of the year. Just typing those words makes me grab a copy of Robert Frost and reread his Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. While there is no snow to speak of and the weather has been mild, the dark has been deep indeed. How can something as simple as darkness affect a person so intensely? The metaphors for light and dark are easy to type out. Though they have been reflected upon before, I feel I must get them out of my head and onto the page so that this part of me that fears the dark can move forward into the winter with some small semblance of peace.

As I face the Winter; the heavy darkness, I feel in me how quiet the dark actually is. There is growth in the light, this is true, but all things rest in the dark. Why should I be any different? As I sit this morning I am hoping to relearn that not only does my body need rest from the activity and excitement of Summer, but my mind needs a break from the busy as well. While I have slowed us down quite a bit this year, given myself much needed grace to move at my own pace,  I still fill up most of the waking hours with tasks and activities. I had hoped to still our schedule even more this Winter. The darkness will serve as a reminder that not all hours need be spent with work close at hand.

Furthermore, I must remember that in Minnesota, in the Winter, the night is not actually as dark as one might believe. As I wake to care for a teeny who couldn’t sleep and look out at the snow covered ground I can see as clearly as I could during the day. The lights of the city being held close to earth because of the dense clouds overhead make me feel as though the twilight will last all night long. Clear nights are even better. The moon and stars quite nearly blaze down on us as we sit ’round a cozy fire. It’s as if we are meant to see clearly the path before us, walking without fear of the darkness, being surefooted even in the night. If, that is, we are willing to be there at all, out there in the dark.

I had been fearing the dark a little. Knowing how the cold and depth of Winter affect my mental well-being I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to get away from this season. As I sit here on this solstice morning I am choosing to see the glory that could come from the darkness. The glowing good that is coming from the night. As I type, babies sleep late in their beds, the sun hides behind clouds and asks nothing of me. There are no plants to tend, no trails to wander, no far-flung adventures to be had…and that’s okay. Actually, it’s better than okay, it is good.

This quiet darkness affords me the time to be here, to be present in this place and time. More than that, the black and white of Winter allow me to plan, to plot, to explore ideas and thoughts, hopes and dreams, if not fields and forests. The bright night sky is much like a guiding light for adventures to come. I can choose to see it as such anyway. While I may still long for warm Summer nights spent away from home, I can also enjoy these days snuggled in close.

I ask again; what keeps you here? As you look ahead to the returning of the light, from this “the darkest night of the year”, what do you hope for? long for? need? The Christmas tree lights scatter and reflect in the windows bringing more light into the dark world. Giving me one more reason to be present in this moment, in this deepening night. Does the good of the light outweigh the fear of the dark? For me, for now, I believe it does. And maybe, just maybe, there is some good in the dark as well. Look for it with me would you?

Watch for it when the snow is deep, the night is dark and the woods are lovely yes, but perhaps a bit threatening. Look for it when you are far from peace or far from home, whether by choice or circumstance. Keep an eye out when there is no other sound in your head or your heart save the wind and the swirling snow. We need not be burdened by this night, by this Winter. We can use the stillness to reflect on, and set aside those things that are not helping us to grow. We can allow the cold to do it’s own work. We really can friends, and if we will allow it to do so we just might be ready to bloom in the seasons to come.

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