Sunday, October 28, 2007

Exploring the Capital and Re-Centering

I returned this week, from a visit to Canada's capital city Ottawa. Some dear friends of ours have moved from British Columbia to Ontario within the last two years and have settled in the Ottawa area, where they are involved in Parliament. We really miss having them nearby! In the meantime, they have welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family who I desperately wanted to meet.

My husband was generous to let me travel to Ottawa for a visit. I took Soul-Baby with me and Alley stayed back to hold down the fort with dad. Bry was able to work his at-home schedule around Alley's afternoon nap and early bedtime.They invented yummy snacks like "honey nuts" (mixed nuts drizzled with honey), played Candyland, went iceskating, and had a relatively peaceful few days. Alley was not excited about being "left behind" from the chance to ride on a plane. Because of this, we talked every night, gave kisses over the phone and she asked me to share details about each day.

At night when she crawled into bed, she wrapped herself in our big, cozy, orange blanket and pretended it was a mama-hug.

For me, the trip was rejuvenating and memorable. It was so good to have time with dear friends, to see their new corner of the world, to meet their daughter. We were able to do a few side trips to see other mutual friends and new babies and to enter, for a time, into different ways of living and seasons in eachother's lives. It was wonderful.

When I returned home, I felt refreshed and excited to jump into daily life. Cooking and doing dishes with Anne felt like a treat, especially because it was in her home, and felt communal and full of teamwork. Laundry was a fun adventure in their co-op housing unit. We walked in the sun along downtown city streets to buy food from the local grocery store. It felt effortless to cart our babies around from one task to the other, because we were TOGETHER and in the same season of life. The sense of community and friendship I felt, carried with me into my home as I eased back into cooking and doing laundry and picking up the many little things that end up on the floor throughout the day.

I walzed around inspired and joyful...for a few days.

And then wham! I felt discouraged and lonely, like a solitary pioneer slogging out the routine of home life and motherhood.

This dip in my perspective has intrigued me to stop, re-center and focus my heart . Yes, I do think our society is too individualistic at times. Yes, I would like to have someone next door in the exact same season of life who I can form a cooking/laundry co-op with. Yes, chopping vegetables and folding underwear is so much funner while having a good conversation with a friend. But, the reality is that it is MY home and MY stuff that needs to be done each day. I can't run from it.

And we all have our stuff. There are easier ways to do things, and I am learning slowly what they are. But at the end of the day, I have control over how I respond to daily work at home. And I have to take responsibility for how I choose to manage my home and how I consistently (or not) apply what I am learning.

I know I am not alone in this, and I know there are many home managers out there who have found easier ways to get it all done and are generous with sharing what has worked.

When I have a dip, I suddenly think we need to change our life NOW! I can be impatient and hasty in my ideas. My highly rational husband helps me pause and reflect on what I need. He sees emotions and reactions as personal feedback about my personality and needs rather than an immediate call for drastic action. I am more short term in my thinking. He sees the horizon and knows where we need and want to be. And I am grateful for this. He grounds my wild desire to just sell it all and move onto a boat.

But when I have a dip, it also communicates to me that I DO need to make a change and DO need to get refocused on my priorities and dreams for how we want to live.

So, this week, after experiencing a lonely "I need a house keeper and personal chef!" episode, I have slowed down and tried to take some time to plan out the month. I have explored things like once-a-month cooking and once-a-month shopping, but have not yet buckled down to do it. Some friends are starting up a cooking guild they call Heart and Soul: "cooking together is more fun than cooking alone!" I might join them for the next one, if I'm still in need of a communal kick-start.

But in the meantime, I am exploring ways in our current life situation, neighborhood and season of life to be more intentionally connected and to streamline some of the more mundane tasks of home management. I know I am not alone in this and have done my fair share of complaining and co-miserating. I can talk about my woes all day long if I want to (and drive us all crazy). But I also know there are many home managers out there who have found easier ways to get it all done and are generous with sharing what has worked. And my husband is a great teammate when I am able to ask for the help I need. So here starts a renewed exploration into the ART of home making. You might say I'm developing a new "craft".

I have come across many blogs on the topic, and websites galore. Here is a short list of some I have found helpful in the past and desperate present:

What has helped YOU? I welcome any suggestions for further resources along this journey. I will add to the list as I find others that are helpful.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unexpected Joy

It is morning, my feet slide onto cold wooden and stone floors. I move groggly toward the kid's room, where I can hear them giggling and playing together in Soul-Baby's crib. We move toward the living room, the orange fleece blanket drawn around us. We three cuddle in the corner burgundy chair and wait for the warmth to ease into our bones, to still us against the chill.

I put on Ben Harper and fill the tea kettle. Soul-baby pads around the living room rug with his sister's bright pink (lined with feathery, fluffy stuff) princess slippers with a triumphant smile on his face. His bulbous, round belly is pushed out like a pregnant monkey, his shoulders held back making him strut like he's a cool cat gangster. I swoop him up as he thuds by and hug him until he lets go.

The rain pelts our windows from all sides. A wry smiles curves on my lips as I realize the adventurous day before us.

See, my husband is in Vancouver for two days, with the Toyota, volunteering for the Writer's Festival. And on Thursday afternoons, Alley enjoys 3 hours of Preschool at a nearby church. It is especially nearby on a sunny day or when I drive her. But today, 30 minutes in the pouring rain, pushing a stroller, calls for a hearty breakfast and a strong cup of coffee.

I load them up, bundled and wrapped in fleece blankets. I scrounge around for the rain cover and draw it tight over our double jogger. They seem cozy and dry, and Alley is so excited to prance her toy horse for show-in-tell, that I can barely buckle her in.

The air hits us first. It is crisp and tinged with a smokey fireplace smell. Rain runs down my cheeks in refreshing steadiness. I am immediately transported and awakened by the sensual symphony of Autumn. I am suddenly excited. With each step I am reacquainted with an old friend, my favorite season. Every tree is a wooden palette exploding with fiery reds, burnt oranges and vibrant yellows. We crunch through piles of leaves. I hold up a changed Maple leaf for the kids to see. It is nearly a foot wide and high and the deepest shade of yellow. Beautiful.

I gather leaves on the way, take in the sight and smell of puffing chimneys. And settle into this changing season, glad for it's arrival.


No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.-- John Donne

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. --Albert Camus

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns. --George Eliot

Oh, good gigantic smile of the old earth this autumn morning! --Robert Browning

There is a harmonyIn autumn, and a lustre in its sky,Which through the summer is not heard or seen,As if it could not be, as if it had not been!-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before.-- Mitchell Burgess

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why Not?

I am in the process of learning a very important lesson about parenting. It has taken me some time to get into the rhythm of having a daily schedule, something that provides structure (and ultimately freedom) to my days at home with my family. In many ways, I have become an order loving, aspiring woman and am slowly decluttering many layers and levels of my life.

The flipside of this newfound order, is that in trying to keep it up, I can sometimes forget what it's all for.

So that's where my four-year-old comes in.

This morning, in the fresh-breaking dawn light, I awoke to a high-pitched squeal and excited exclamation, "Today is a party day! Wake-up, Mama! I need streamers and tape and all kinds of decorations!"

I groggily opened my eyes and asked "What?!"

"Mama, it's a party day! Let's celebrate!" And this morning, for some reason, a voice in my head asked "Why not?"

So, we pulled out the streamers, and decided it was the day's birthday. Because after all, a new day is born each morning, right? So we hung them up with electrical tape (that's all I could find) at various angles and heights around the house. For a birthday cake, we piled our pancakes high and lit a firecracker candle with glee.

The whole day was party-themed. We played games, sang Happy Birthday, had a family dance party to Irish jigs (The Chieftains) and generally maintained a celebratory spirit.

And you know what? I don't think any of us will every forget it. At a few points during the day, I thought to myself, "We should do this kind of thing more often. After all, this is what I imagined parenthood to be. And it can be this way when I say 'why not?' more often and 'not today' less.

At the end of the day, while peeling streamers from every nook, I felt thankful again, for the way my children teach me to greet life with open arms, to leave no rock unturned.