In June

I felt convicted a couple weeks ago that if I was not intentional, I was going to work my summer away and not take it for the season it is, a time of renewal and play. There is always so much to DO that I get caught up and forget to enjoy. After May, I kept thinking that “next week won’t have as much on the list” and then next week…

But we haven’t been all work around here! Back in May, Micah turned 2 and just in the past few weeks, he has gotten a bit easier. I always find 1 to be a much harder age than 2, but Micah was testing my theory. There are still challenges (he is determined to pick every single green strawberry and green tomato on our farm…aah!), but he is not quite as unpredictable. He might still play in the toilet and let himself outside, but I’m more hopeful every day.

Hannah is 9 now (9!)! She had a cute beach-themed American girl party, which was way too much fun to organize. We made grass skirts and leis and paper umbrellas to put in drinks. And I learned that if you forget sugar when you are making cupcakes, they don’t make anything resembling a cupcake (John called it quiche, which isn’t true, but you get the idea). We put jelly on the quiche-cupcakes and ate them for breakfast! Hannah did basketball day camp a couple weeks ago and she’s taking piano this summer. She wanted to learn to play recorder, so I’ve been helping her with that recently, plus she is sewing a couple quilts.

BenBen joined Hannah this summer in dancing at the Mid-Sommar Swedish festival. Watching him bow to his partner and dance and sing in Swedish, while wearing breeches was about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. He took dancing very seriously and he talks like he will do it again next year. BenBen is looking forward to playing soccer later this summer. Other than legos, he is most excited about playing baseball with me in the yard and biking.

Sammy loves to run. All my kids run and enjoy it, but Sammy absolutely glows when he is running. A couple days ago, he ran 2 miles like it was nothing (and he is 4!). Sammy is taking swim lessons for the first time this summer and that felt like a huge deal. The boy who has always been content to sit on the side of the pool. Sammy is also a little ball player with me and he is all cuddles and love. There is something magical about 4 years old and he is right in that sweet spot.

Micah has been entertaining us recently, not only with picking all the green strawberries in the garden tirelessly, but also with his words. He says big words like “strawberry” (of course) and basketball and Lila. He even calls me Mama sometimes, instead of dada. Micah loves board books and he loves to be outside. What a love!

In addition to Mid-Sommar, we helped with a farm festival and attended a Scottish festival in June…gotta love summer! My dad encouraged me to play ball with the kids, teaching them to throw and catch properly this summer, and we have had so much fun with that. I realized that I know how to do this because I was taught, and it is sort of an American rite- you should know how to play baseball. So, I’m owning that and my boys eat it up. It’s a perfect do-anywhere activity.

I did some more gardening work, enough to realize where I really love working. And I’m sticking with that. I am not working for the money- it’s for fun and something different- I don’t need 5 jobs. I am thankful that I got to dive into several so I could figure that out.

Something silly I recognized recently was that for so long, I have thought I learned no skills as a child. This sounds ridiculous and it’s not that extreme, but I live in a rural place and I didn’t grow up with rural skills. I had city skills. However, it isn’t true, that I didn’t learn anything- the truth was that I wasn’t using what I had learned. Enter opportunity. Although our town had a swim team in name, we didn’t really have a swim team. There was plainly a need and I grew up swimming on swim team. So, I volunteered to coach it, and I am learning so much. I am using what I grew up learning and it feels great. Of course it’s been a long time since I was on a swim team, so I’ve had to dig to remember. Some days I wonder why I am doing it, but when I’m there, I love it. It’s a short season, and I have some great kids swimming that I will know and have a connection with. It’s satisfying on a deep level to realize I have something to offer.

I am still working on my simplification quest. I still haven’t broken my streak of one bag minimum each week that goes to the thrift store (it’ll be a year in mid-August!). I think of fun new ways to frame it to myself all the time: I am living a backpacker lifestyle, or I am staging my house for myself, or I am unearthing what I really love. It’s all fun and it’s all productive. I don’t always notice the difference, but at times I do…and it is different. I’m never going to “finish”…but that’s the whole idea. My life is always changing so my home will be too. I still have things I know should go but I’m not ready to part with, so they stay. There is grace, and that is fine with me. Something different generally sticks out to me each week and that’s where I go.

On the farm side, I had a revelation this week that possibly I am thinking about the farm all wrong. The kids help with the garden- that’s easy- but honestly, the kids do nothing with the animals except occasionally visiting them, and if that’s the truth, what are we doing? Yes, we get meat and eggs and sometimes milk. But having a farm is more than just sourcing food. Our kids are getting old enough to do more (at least Hannah and BenBen) and if they are going to grow up farm kids, they need to do more than occasionally visit the animals. They need to be helping with chores or having set jobs and I have to order our lives so that happens. It’s not our habit, so it seems hard. John does all the chores- we don’t wake our kids each morning to work. To really involve the kids would require setting it up differently than it is. It’s something I’m chewing on and I don’t know what to do with it. Is the answer to get out of animals, or simplify animals, or just set it up differently, and if so how? I just don’t know!

From the bookshelf:

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • Why Read Moby Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick  (highly recommended if you are going to tackle Moby Dick!)
  • The Green Ember by S.D. Smith (book club with Hannah)
  • Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (book club with Hannah)
  • Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson

What are you doing for fun this summer?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In May

I’m still catching my breath from May. I loved it all, but there was a lot going on. I’ve been sleeping lots. I’ve lost most of my good habits. I am needing a break. So, I’m taking it now.

I made a pact with a friend recently that we weren’t going to complain for a month. It’s a good challenge and the thing I loved most about it was that it was a challenge that did not require me to do anything. I think of challenges that involve doing and this involved not doing…love it!

A week in and I have learned that I do a lot of complaining in my head. It may never come out of my mouth, but it is still complaining and it is so unproductive and life-sapping.

We are all done with school! The standardized test is in the mail…hooray! I was not expecting that ending school would make a big difference for me. I set things up, but most of what my kids do is self-directed. Yet, life seems so free and open now!

One big highlight of May was going to the play Mary Poppins. It was incredible and all my kids said it was way better than the movie (which they love). Micah even sat through it, and that is something. When we left, the first thing BenBen said to me was “when can we go to another play?” As with most things, going to a play with the kids had been on my list for a couple years. I felt frustrated by the wait, but in the end, it happened when the time was right.

I had seen an advertisement for a mother-son dance on Mother’s Day weekend. Enter visions of me slow dancing with BenBen and Sammy and having a sweet time. It sounds so nice, doesn’t it? I wasn’t sure what to expect and I mentioned to a friend that I was going, so she decided to take her two boys as well. I am so glad she came.

Do you know what happens at the Mother-Son dance? All the little boys run around the gym and all the moms talk to each other. No kidding.

Instead, my friend and I busted a move. We kept requesting songs and danced like rock stars to Michael Jackson and the chicken dance. I think we had more fun than anyone! For all my boys ignored their dancing mother (and no, I don’t think they ignored me because I was dancing..they are too young for that!), they told me on the way home how much fun they had and they want to go again next year. Whatever! I’m sure my friend will dance with me again.

In May, we hosted a fun tea party. Running club has begun. I started running again (yay!). We enjoyed year-end recitals for gymnastics, piano, and fiddle. We had fun guests from Colorado and the kids made some new friends. The garden is planted. I love working on other people’s gardens, even though there is plenty to do at my house- it’s something different and that feels nice. In fact, it’s kind of a vacation! One of my book clubs ended and although I loved it, I was ready to clear my calendar a bit. We are practicing dance for the Mid-Sommar Swedish festival. And Micah turned 2!

I have mostly been in task-finishing mode the past few weeks and that is something, but I also have to remember that life is not a series of tasks. I can get to (complaining!) thinking that I didn’t get every task done this week instead of realizing that we read books and went for a hike and had dinner with friends and practiced Swedish dance, and that was a good week. I am thankful that my life is not just completing tasks, so I have to get out of that mindset. I am working on it!

June so far has been lovely- yay for summer life!

From the bookshelf:

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Essays by Michel de Montaigne
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo

What are you looking forward to most this summer?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Opportunity

I hate cramming at the last minute, but that’s what I’ve been doing lately. All of the sudden, I needed to read the last 200 pages for my book club book today and meet all these other activities and events at the deadline, today…for the past 3 weeks. There has been lots of life happening and I wouldn’t trade it! But I have felt behind.

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by rich opportunity. I can take it or not, and that is my choice, but opportunities are everywhere. I’m not talking about a big, crazy trip…it’s the things I can do right here. It’s visiting someone who’s down or having guests over. It’s being pushed outside of my usual habits…and every time I learn so many truths and the time is rich. It might be working one day a week instead of doing my normal schedule, and realizing that whatever I think I do all day isn’t nearly as important as I think. It might be learning that my default activity is to clean when I feel like I’m not perfectly in control (very funny, because no one is ever in control!). It might be having a child stay with us that needs to go to bed early, and realizing that it is actually possible to accomplish that, because getting to bed early is not our habit….but we can do it!

This control thing is an issue for me. One aspect- I own too much in Hannah’s activities. She has gotten used to me helping her, and I clearly saw in the past couple weeks that it is a crutch. For example, I should make sure she practices piano every day- that is my job- but if she’s struggling with a song, I should not be teaching her how to play it. Then she’s playing at my level, and not at her level. She doesn’t get to figure it out and grow from it. Some things (like back handsprings) are appropriate for me to assist her with (she needs a spotter), but things like math and piano need to be owned by her. She can’t live life running to me every time she can’t problem solve! And for me, it’s control and a waste of energy and life.

On another note, I considered tracking our spending (something we don’t do) because I was curious (I said!). We pay all our bills, but I thought numbers could be fun to know. I posed the question to a friend and her response was, “Why?! It sounds like you want to control something.” Bingo! She told me what I know to be true, that once I start tracking, then I’ll be thinking about it too much and possibly worrying, and why would I do that when there is no issue. She is right. I don’t need to know where every penny goes. That doesn’t mean I should spend thoughtlessly, but a portion of our income goes straight to savings by category each month, and the rest is what we have to live on. That works, so I should not introduce worry and control.

What I’ve been learning, in a nutshell, and I’m happy to be there.

The apple trees are blooming. My flower beds are cleaned out and looking good. I’ve been learning a lot gardening with my friend. We should be done with school this week. The kids and I dreamed up what we want to do this summer (I already feel nostalgic for it… and it hasn’t started!). I am finally learning that it’s okay (and fun) to try new clothing styles and even straighten my hair. My kids hiked 2.5 miles yesterday without complaint. I’m working on details for a birthday party (one of my favorite creative outlets). We are eating rhubarb from our garden. And I am really trying to take more photos!

Life is good.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

In April

I know! What would be a month for us when we didn’t add animals to our farm?

We added two new calves on Friday! It was so fun to hang out in the barn and meet these new guys. It’s easy to not hang out in the barn and do other things, but we always appreciate it when we do. See BenBen below…

P1140187

The animals know that he loves them!

On the farm, we have talked about leaning our enterprises and doing only what we value most. We might get out of goats. We might go to more beef cows plus one dairy cow for us. All just ideas. We never talk about getting rid of cows altogether! The only definite change is selling a bunch of laying hens. We want to have our own eggs, but at $3 a dozen, we are losing money on any we sell. So we’ll keep only enough to feed us and stop selling them.

It’s finally play-outside weather here! Last night, on a wonderful, short family hike, I felt so content. Sammy can hike himself now, which leaves just Micah to carry. The kids know that we hike and they love it. I felt excited for the adventures and fun ahead of us this summer.

And I guess that is where I am today…excited for what is ahead. Overall, I am trying to be faithful with what I know I should do. I often want to hold onto everything (I love adding more!) and keep going forward but at times, I have to let go too. I want to hold onto the goats for various reasons, but if we need to, I can’t know what opportunities letting go will open up. We aren’t getting rid of goats right now, but it’s a possibility that I have worked through.

I am trying gardening for someone else. We are trying to make transition with our rental properties. I am still cleaning things out of our house, because that is what I do.:) I saw a friend’s house that is on the market and it looks so fantastic…and pared down. I love the lightness of entering a simplified house. I want to be more proactive in loving the people around us. It’s all good stuff.

I am not someone who works in fits and starts. I am the person who plods along at a steady pace and I love doing a little bit every day. Most of our activities have only a month left until they end for summer, and part of me feels sad because I love what we do. Hannah has her goal of what to finish for this school year. The recitals are on the calendar. And then everything will change again!

What’s ahead this month? A visit from friends in Colorado! Hosting a tea party. Running club. Book clubs. Seeing Mary Poppins as a play. Gardening. And hopefully a few hikes and picnics.

From the bookshelf:

  • The Shepherdess of Elk River Valley by Margaret Duncan Brown
  • 12 Journeys in Maine by Wesley McNair
  • Free to Parent by Ellen Schuknecht and Erin MacPherson

Are you ready for the end of school and activities? What are you looking forward to this month?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Spring trip 2016

As much as I love our annual spring trip to see my parents, it is never easy to get out of the house and accept getting out of my routine. I love traveling, and I mean LOVE….once I am doing it. Getting ready to travel and anticipating travel are not things that fill me with affection.

But we did it! I dragged myself out of the house, and we had a fantastic time.

This year was different in several ways. One, John drove down to North Carolina with us, spent a couple days there, and flew back. He couldn’t be gone as long as the kids and I and it was much more manageable to set up chores for someone else for only a week, instead of two. Having him with us was a blessing (of course!) and it felt like a legitimate vacation since we were a family.

Another difference this year was that we broke up our driving days with mini-adventures. Instead of driving driving driving, we drove and explored, drove and explored. It changed the feel of the trip completely. Yes, it took us 3 days each direction instead of 2 big ones, but that was well worth the price. I am thoroughly convinced that this is the only way to travel with kids. We spent 3 hours in New York City and 3 hours in Washington D.C. on the way there, but really, that was enough. We wouldn’t have used our time well if we’d been there longer- the kids were tired and there is only so much active exploring you can soak in in a day. On the way home, we spent 3 hours on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and again, this was ideal. We did everything we wanted to do…because we have 4- and 6-year old attention spans!

P1140092We rode escalators (!) and the subway into New York City and walked around Times Square, then rode the subway back out (plus escalators again!).

In D.C., we enjoyed downtown Bethesda, and got to ride escalators and the subway (do not underestimate how thrilling this is!), and then walked around the D.C. monuments.

On the Outer Banks, we visited the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, which the kids learned about in history this year, Kitty Hawk, and played on the big sand dunes of Jockeys Ridge State Park. The other driving highlight was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. A couple of my kids will tell you that was their favorite part of the trip.

As always, we got in a great friend visit on the way home in New York that wasn’t nearly long enough. I had to be back for an activity on Tuesday at 11:30 am, and we arrived in town on Tuesday at 11:25…we stretched it out as long as we possibly could!

Yes, I have already planned our stops for our trip to and from North Carolina next year!

An extra mini-adventure we squeezed in was staying at an Air BnB on the way down. John came up with this brilliant idea, but none of them are targeted for families that I could find. I found a potential location, and then messaged the woman if it was okay to stay with 4 little kids. This one was an apartment within a home, so she would be there too. She said yes, and I booked it before she could change her mind! The kids loved that we were headed for a house instead of a hotel. We stayed in a fantastic neighborhood with an easy walk to downtown, an easy walk to the metro, and it was totally affordable. I highly recommend this!

P1140123In North Carolina, my kids went to their first baseball game (Durham Bulls). We went to a couple playgrounds. We learned how to geocache and found a few caches. I hit on some great garage sales. And we played ball in my parent’s backyard, always a favorite activity.

On the way home, the kids had me laughing as they discussed how “we never do chores or school in the summer”, talking as if it were the present, and I was like, “Wait a minute! It’s mid-April, guys; I don’t think that qualifies as summer.” Nice try!:)

Have you stayed at an air bnb? Any favorite mid-trip stops you’ve made with your family?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In March

When I sit down to write, my dilemma is always where to go. So much happens in a week or a month and there are at least a hundred topics I could expand upon.

Which leads me to my favorite habit- journalling. I committed last summer to writing 2 pages every day (because when I said once a week, it wouldn’t happen at all), and it is one of the best things I do. One thing about having kids is that it forces me to put a price on various ways I spend time away from them. Writing every morning makes the cut. As so much happens in a day, there is always much to process. Each weekend, I look back over my week at things I learned or cool things that happened and I am every week amazed that it has only been a week. None of my days seem extraordinary in the middle of them…I’m a stay-at-home mom! However, there are countless lessons within each day and had I not written down some of them, those lessons would pass by unlearned and unapplied.

There are lots of painful truths about myself that I have uncovered through journalling every day. I can’t say that it’s fun to realize that you are controlling or self-absorbed, but it’s better to recognize those things than keep going blindly forward. It’s not all bad though- I also recognize when something happens that I’ve been looking for or positive changes.

Another exciting happening this week was completing my months-long thrift store challenge. Beginning at the middle of last August, I resolved to take at least one bag to the thrift store every week through March (our spring trip) and I have done it! I have not missed a single week. It’s kind of mind-boggling, and although we still have plenty (PLENTY!), the result is that we are relevant (as opposed to minimal). Our home reflects who we are and what we need and use in this moment. We have bins of lego and duplo and a car set, but that is because my kids play with those things every day. The pictures on the walls are the ones I really like and not just something kept for sentiment. The books are the ones we use and that bring us joy. We have cases of canning jars but we use them all. That being said, I see this as a constant process. We outgrow things as well as clothes. I have a pile of things that can be sold that I need to deal with still, but this was a huge accomplishment. Every week I would drop off my bag (or 3) and have no idea what would go the next week. Once that bag was gone though, I would see the next layer. Yes, it’s likely I will continue…how could I stop now!

Lots of fun happenings this past month…we did a murder mystery party with friends, we watched a fantastic kids’ orchestra concert, my violin teacher and I have been playing duets at my lessons (which fools me into thinking I’m making progress!), we watched dog sled racers as they started, we roasted marshmallows on a family ski trip, and I rode our friends’ work horse around their pasture.:)

My latest hobby seems to be book clubs. I had never been in a book club before last summer, and at the moment I am in 3 (plus Hannah wanted to do one with me…4). They all have a different flavor so it makes it interesting, it expands me into different reading genres, and we have outside-of-the-ordinary conversations. We might talk about community, or Medieval mysticism, or living according to your convictions. This is fun stuff, folks!

From the bookshelf:

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Gonaway Lake by Elizabeth Enright (my book club with Hannah)
  • The Joyful Christian by CS Lewis
  • The Weir by Ruth Moore

Anyone in a fun book club? What is your topic? Do you journal or do something else that helps you process and think?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The last weeks of winter

Here in Maine, the last weeks of winter, are the very best.

It’s not as cold (and we are used to cold…40 degrees is total windows down and wear t-shirts weather). We get more sunshine. The skiing is great. The sap might be running. This is the good life.

Sadly, I don’t take pictures anymore. I know some people are into living in the moment and not taking pictures, but I love photos and it was not a conscious decision. I just don’t remember it. So, I don’t have pictures of my kids smiling while they ski, but I know they have smiled a lot.

Hockey is done so we have more free afternoons. We ditched the ski club at the school because they started traveling to ski instead of skiing in town (too much running around). Instead, I committed to myself to take the kids skiing and snowshoeing more. That’s more fun anyway.

With winter almost done, it was also time to kill our pigs. We took the advice of a friend who has harvested lots of pigs…she told us to kill and gut the animal ourselves and then take the carcass to the butcher. No stressing the animal. No loading a live animal (especially tricky with a pig!). Killing and gutting are the quick part. And all the mess is outside.

John had a couple guys help him yesterday and he felt like that advice was great. They were done in an hour and a half!

The goat babies are back to eating off their moms, but the interesting part is that after 2 weeks of being separated, the moms did not recognize their babies at all. They were complete strangers. It surprised us because all the moms had licked the babies off and fed them colostrum! But it’s perfect because now any baby can feed off any mom, so everyone gets enough. What remains to be seen is if 2 weeks in the house changes how the babies respond to us as they grow up. Our hope is that they will be more friendly, but we can’t know yet.

We didn’t get the trees across the road tapped this year for syrup, but we have helped friends collect sap and boil syrup a couple times…that might have to do for us this year.

And I have to get back to taking pictures! Poor Micah…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment