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.

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.

Walking the Path of Less Anxiety

Sometimes I’d like to hide in the sofa too little one, really.

I was pulled into a conversation recently. One that I really didn’t want to get involved in, but couldn’t quite stay out of either. Still working on keeping my mouth shut while the masses spout their opinions and certainties… As I thought about what I would say to a friend and her shared opinion, I felt the anxiety rise in my chest. Is that odd? I’ve written about my anxiety briefly before and I have actually had a pretty good handle on it for quite some time. I know that my current mental capacity is maxed though, and in adding in this small extra I should expect to feel the familiar flutter.

This has been going on for a few days, so I did what I do now; I sat with it. I’ve been reading too, trying to keep myself from reading too much into the flutter in my chest, the nervous creep inside my mind, the lack of peace and the lack of sleep. In being still with the unrealistic worry, I’ve noticed the growth I otherwise would not have. In the past my anxiety would make me jumpy, more stressed, more worried, more anxious. Nice cycle, right? Perhaps I’ve learned something over the years though.

While I still have the anxiety; it still surrounds me and closes in on me. The growth comes in not being afraid of this tight place anymore. I have felt the lack of oxygen enough times and I now know how to calm it, ease it, live through it. As I sat this afternoon, trying to write while my heart beat loudly in my chest, I decided that there are a few things I do to ease the anxiety. I thought perhaps they might work for you too. Here’s my short list and the path I usually take through the dark forest.

Most notably on my journey through each bout of anxiety is thankfulness. I have kept a joy-journal for three or so years, tracking every little thing that makes me smile, makes me see God, makes me thankful to do this life. My list is several thousand gifts long and when I look back over it I can see how keeping track of the good has been pivotal in weathering the bad. The “thankfulnesses” have helped me carry on through the anxiety, causing me to search out the good amidst the immense worry that sometimes threatens to smother me. When it seems there is no good, only pressure I try to remember that I can be thankful for the weight, how it anchors me here.

I’m going to assume that you can see how the writing has made a difference. I am not at all surprised that with each sharing of a struggle, each admittance of a fault, and each spoken silence I feel less of the crush. It is scary to put myself out here in this Nevernever of internet space. I find more peace in pouring out the truths of my soul than I could realistically put words to, though I will continue to try. I search for meaningful thoughts to be shared. I hope that you get something from the rambling. I pray for those who read my words, that you would be changed by them. My audience is small, but still, this is what I work toward.

My next go-to is that I get lost in fantasy. I post on Facebook begging for recommendations of a fantastical world to get lost in. I pull out old stand-bys; thick volumes that allow me to live in another time and place for two (let’s be honest, four) hours at bedtime each night. I make digital library requests and charge my Kindle. This getting lost in literature is not just a typical escape, I find that it frees up my mind to not focus and dwell on whatever is causing the anxiety. I can put myself in another world while my unconscious self works out the perceived problems in my life. I’m in the middle of my eighth book this month, so I know I’ve been hiding here.

My final tactic to fight against the clinging fear is sort of an anti-tactic, if that’s a thing. I will bail out of commitments and obligations, I will be still and focus on the anxiety, not willing it away rather, asking it to come close. To whisper what it is that is lacking or overwhelming. I suppose I could go to this place first, get quiet with God and my own mind, asking for the wisdom to be imparted. Not all anxiety is created equal though, and most is petty and manageable through these other strategies. This place here is where I have seen the most growth, this is why I no longer fear the crush or the flutter, why I can still process daily life when anxiety is pressing.

When I took a deep breath and spoke actual words to my friend, I felt the exhalation of my lungs and I let my head clear. I spoke my truth into the fear-filled place between us. The place where I didn’t really want to be. I was able to be kind and clear, I didn’t yell as perhaps I would have once, I didn’t demand she do it my way, I didn’t even suggest that she should. I trusted that my truth would not be lost on her and that if somehow it was misunderstood, we could work through that together.

I knew that my own experiences were worthy of putting out into actual space because I have put so many of them out there in digital space. I knew that I would, one day, be thankful for adding my own opinion to the masses, and that it matters what I think. I knew that no amount of educating myself on the topic would better express my thoughts than my own experience. I simply had to invite the fear in, let it rest in my mind and be healed by the peace it found there.