Thursday, August 14, 2014

Life these days.

"The little ones leaped, 
and shouted, and laugh'd 
And all the hills echoed."

William Blake

It's that time of year again! It feels so good. The time when school supplies become the centerpiece of store displays and life settles back into routine and the evenings hint at your surrounding's first nudge towards Autumn; quite possibly the best season ever because it always brings with it darker evenings and more time for noses to peek into books while a hearty soup simmers away on a stove-top. Isn't that what it feels like to you? Sigh, nothing brings back the nostalgia to me like a good back-to-school season.

I'm not the only one loving it. The girls have repeatedly arranged and re-arranged all of their supplies. Pencils and markers and paper and outfits assembled courtesy of a generous Nonna, who took them school shopping while we were in town. Even Nonna was in on the nostalgia of the season. In keeping with a loving tradition, she recounted to us how her Nonna always bought her a new dress every school year. Except, my girls' Nonna bought more than a dress, let me tell you. Those girls came back stocked and ready, with insanely cute Hello Kitty side-sling backpacks to boot, from their favorite Hello Kitty store. Only with Nonna are such luxuries permitted.;)

 { Sigh. Just look at them. My third grader Lily and first grader London. Weep...}

They scurried off to school today excited, and I was left to console my aching (gosh, always aching! it's just TOO fast) heart with the little munchkins.

Who are mighty fine company, I might add. They play beautifully together and I repeatedly pray thank You to God for our little surprise package Emerson arriving exactly when she did.

Ellie Jane and Emerson are becoming quite the pals.

 And...occasional foes.


A few weeks ago I took the girls to the salon for their annual school year grooming. We browsed the adjacent downtown, tree lined streets in Redlands, rotating hair-cuts and selecting new lunch boxes from the side shops in-between. It was one of those random, unexpected, perfect kind of days. The sun is burning bright but somehow the air still feels fresh and breezy and the girls are uncharacteristically extremely well-behaved and we eat lunch outside and browse an old bookstore while I pinch myself to think this is actually my life kind of day. Life is peppered with those kinds of days, and when I am really lucky I can sometimes notice them right when I'm smack dab in the center of it all. I take notice and think, hmmm. well my my. isn't this nice?

{Lily giving the proper instructional on how to manage a school lunch-box. You know. These things are important. Especially for the younger siblings, who were - as Lily assessed quite accurately - encumbered by an astonishing level of school lunch-hour naivete. Well done Lu.}

This summer has been such a good summer. We've been making a few changes in our house and life lately, and I am feeling really good about it all. I've had a few a ha! moments that have helped to shift my life in areas that needed some good shifting.

One shift of greatest importance came from an random conversation with my Mom. Of course. Always with that lady. I love that I can complain and go on and on about how mind boggling exhausting a life with children and a husband and bills and houses and friends and church and school etc etc etc! can be with her. There is never judgment. Praise heavens there is NO JUDGMENT. Just laughter, and encouragement, and perspective. School has been particularly taxing on my motherhood experience as of late. After exchanging a few thoughts with my Mom I've worked out some of the schedule to allow more breathing room. Something I rarely seem to allow myself. Why do I do that? I swear I will literally drown myself in pace and momentum and progress and goals! goalsgoals! unless someone steps in and and says SLOW DOWN. I need this sort of intervention about every three weeks. Slow down. Calm down. Look around you. 

Enjoy this.

Enjoy all of it.

This. This is where IT'S AT.

And so I gave myself permission. I've slowed down.

Another good change? The institution of the post-dinner hang out.

Backstory: I've always felt like the family dinner would be the glue that would keep our family connected on a daily basis. Life is just so serially packed and fast-paced. We are busy from sun-up to sun-down. So, I pictured that we would carefully carve out a dinner hour that would be like one of those hamburger helper commercials, the one with that smiling happy two-child family passing each other the macaroni and laughing and being all perfect family-ish. I have always been going for that damn look.
It's been years now, and I largely have felt repeatedly defeated over how lame our family dinners are. Even when I cook and we sit to eat together, it's all very chaotic. For starters, there has pretty much always been a two year-old in the mix of our family throwing food and climbing on the table. Tyler and I spend the majority of dinner disciplining terrible manners or cleaning up a spill or chopping food or refilling plates. Everyone eats at different paces. Kids climb under the table. Emerson demands to sit on my lap the entire time while eating only my food with my fork. We manage about 5 minutes of a scrambled family conversation and then Tyler and I are like "Great! Check! Family dinner done! BED-TIME!". Then we spend the rest of the evening in a clean up, bed time struggle/routine. Or worse, Tyler begins the routine and I sit at the table alone trying to finish the food that I cooked and didn't get a chance to eat while surveying the mess of a kitchen and mentally composing my latest martyrdom eulogy, wondering why we didn't just go to McDonalds with all the other normal, pre-diabetic families.

So. Are you still with me? Because this is where it all becomes hamburger helper happier. I listened to an interview a few months back when the interviewee casually mentioned that their family gathered around after dinner in the living room for about 30 minutes together. This wasn't even the point of the interview! Just a side note! Anyways. They said they had no television on during this time. They would just sit, read, visit, and hang out. It had become such a habit for so many years that it became a sort of cherished tradition - even when their children became teenagers.
Ah. haaa! I thought. I mentioned it to Tyler. How about we slow down and reserve a chunk of the evening strictly for hanging out after dinner? He was game. Because he's awesome like that. Quite the family guy. Sigh.
I have decided we aren't shooting for quality family time during dinner anymore, at least until we have passed through the children/monkey/primate stage. We will still sit as a family, and have dinner. But to expect to really enjoy it to me is like asking a woman to expect enjoying childbirth. You do it. It is meaningful. You will be glad you did. But you will most likely, unless you are some crazy person especially privileged and smiled upon by the woefully unjust and cantankerous gods of fertility, not enjoy it.

Last night, for our post dinner hangout Tyler read Harry Potter aloud to the girls and I played blocks for a bit with Emerson and Ellie Jane. All felt right with the world. I had actually stopped and enjoyed my family. Imagine the possibilities people!

I guess in a nut-shell a few of my summer a ha's! could be described in the following formula :

Decrease speed + Lower expectations = Enjoyment.

 {tea time with "Supergirl Juice", aka Green Smoothies. and marker on our faces. and dirty clothes.}

In the coming weeks, we plan on having our new annual back to school family party {last year here}. I have a few scriptures I'm narrowing down on to decide our theme. We also have other potential changes in the works. I'll have to fill the blog in on all of this at some other time.

I'm hoping to get in more regular writing, but I fear my posts will stay sparse for now. I've debated shutting this whole operation down more than once. But then, you know, I keep on keeping on. I love this space. I feel like it's taken on its own life and I love to check in and share and reflect.

So for now, that's it. 

 Happy Back-to-School Season!

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