A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 2/52
We took this photo last weekend, and all week, I’ve been planning to share it here with some reflections, except even though I have written thousands of words this week, none seemed to be quite right for this space. I’ve got a number of small writing projects in the works, so I make small word-deposits every day in different documents as I build on ideas and thoughts in specific directions, but I’m finding the deeper I get into the writing life, the more I realize how important it is to write for the space, for those who will read. But who reads here? Perhaps you should leave a comment or send a note and let me know. And if there is anything you’d like me to write about or ask me about, please include that. I have an ample supply of words, but a bit of a question mark in my mind about what belongs here right now after the long break I’ve taken from regularly writing here.
It’s Saturday morning. Two kids are sitting on the couch, building legos out of a yellow plastic box. Little man just waltzed into the living room with two clementine oranges, one in each hand. He offers it to his older brother and invites him over to the dining room table, where he wants to peel and eat them together. Brother declines and says he doesn’t really like oranges.
“Yes you do,” he says.
“No, I don’t,” says big brother.
“Yes, you do,” he insists, belligerently.
We all laugh at his persistence, and the innocent way he is trying to command the situation.
Deciding it would be easier to just take the oranges to the table and eat them both himself, he peels the skin back in irregular pieces, discarding them indiscriminately on the table and floor before shoving huge hunks into his mouth.
Dad is in the kitchen, grinding fresh coffee and gathering the assorted pieces of his supplies to make a wake-up cup. We have an overabundance of coffee stuff. I don’t drink it, never have, but I have enjoyed the smell of it ever since I worked in several drive-thru coffee huts in high school. Caffeine, even in smaller amounts, has always made me feel not great, so I’ve steered clear even though I’ve had many opportunities (and reasons) to develop the habit. Dad, on the other hand, has a well-developed affinity for it. Every few years, we add new coffee supplies to our growing collection and each is used for a while before being abandoned for another method. We’ve had a french press, Aeropress, Bialetti pot, Keurig, Breville espresso maker, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. It’s probably time to pare down what isn’t being used, but since it’s not my zone, I just leave it be.
Our near-teenager is in bed still, even though it’s 9:30am. I’ve noticed a sharp turn in her sleep habits in the past few months. She doesn’t settle easily in the evenings, always stretching her bedtime as late as we’ll allow. Many times, we ask her to turn her lights out, which she’ll do until there is no longer a parent nearby and then she’ll flip her little lamp back on to continue reading whatever book she’s sucked into currently. It’s hard to hold the line on it because I remember my own early teen years and how late into the night I would stay up. I spent a lot of time pondering and puttering around my room and enjoyed the time to myself without interruptions. We have to strike a balance because, in the mornings, she can be a bear if she’s not able to sleep as late as she wants to, which is not always an option. It’s definitely new territory trying to sort out where to apply leadership, and where to step back and let her have autonomy. We’ve taken to having conversations about looking ahead to the next day. Will she be able to sleep late enough for a full night? If not, she needs to disengage from her juicy good book and choose rest. To sleep or to read? That is the question. I have to say, I’m glad that this is currently our biggest challenge with her individually.
The table is full of dishes from dinner last night and lazy breakfasts this morning. I’m not especially good at keeping the table top clear. It feels like a losing battle at this point. We rally two or three times a day to reset and prepare for the next planned meal or to create space for projects and school work, but in-between, I have to let it go for my own sanity. Even when we use paper plates for one meal of the day, we have to run the dishwasher twice daily to stay square. There are just so many people, and given that each one often uses multiple dishes per meal — let’s just say staying ahead of the mess is an ideal I may not reach for a long time.
We have been making strides at post-Christmas organizing, though. Usually, I emerge from the holidays in a fog, not quite sure how to navigate the influx of stuff that comes in, and not quite ready for the return to a normal weekly schedule of activities out of the house. This year, our entrance into January has been gentle. I’ve been making a list for the kids, detailing things we need to tackle, and everyone completes a bit of it. Everyone contributes effort, except the two-year-old who seems intent on undoing everything as efficiently as possible. Alternating the upstairs and downstairs spaces each day, we’ve emptied bins, cleared out closets, and have accomplished some of the cleaning we don’t always get to. Simplifying is a great way to start the year.
I wrote a ‘launching into January’ piece over on Kindred Mom earlier this month, and I’m now a few steps into setting my own vision for the year into motion. It is a gentle approach compared to years past. I know with a baby coming in a few short months, there is only so much I can plan, and even those plans must be held with an open hand. In the planner I’m using for the year, one of the questions posed was, “What do you want to leave behind this year?” My list was longer than I expected and even surprised me a bit as I scrawled it out. What I long for most this year is deep growth, habits that serve me (and our family) well, and quiet confidence in the direction I’m headed. In the past, I’ve always wanted to be able to show (or prove, rather) productivity and ground gained, but the events of recent months have shifted my perspective about a lot of things. I wrote, “I want to pursue diligence motivated by faithfulness rather than motivated by productivity,” and I’m starting to really understand the difference. My themes for this year are: slow, thoughtful, substantial, sustainable, focused, joyful, faithful, and my goals are aimed more at depth, quietness, and seeing the beauty of very ordinary moments than at smashing through an impressive to-do list. There are times to hustle, for sure, but hustle is not the only way–and possibly not even the best way–to get the most out of life. Some sweet things can only infiltrate the soul when you slow down, take notice, and savor what would otherwise be missed at a breakneck speed.
“With all my heart, I want you to know that your dreams and goals are valuable and important, but the pressure to produce results in one thing you can check at the door if you want to.
Instead of feeling the pressure, you can take a deep breath and see the lovely life around you—and the limits of motherhood—as a place where you have total freedom to rock this gig one humble day at a time.”
~ Emily Sue Allen, from Embracing Your Motherhood Season
1471. witnessing the courage of others to sacrifice comfort in order to serve, 1472. reclaiming order in small ways, 1473. a gentle re-entry to the weekly schedule, 1474. homemade stock + soup, 1475. successful podcast segments recorded, 1476. finishing school paperwork that was hanging over my head, 1477. grace for mistakes, 1478. researching space missions, 1479. when the kids take initiative to organize a space without being asked, 1480. quiet Saturday morning with sun streaming through the windows