Turns out writing, reflection and putting together sentences don’t go hand in hand with having 3 small children home every day for the summer while you’re packing up one house, and remodeling another one.
Oh right, this is the perfect time to tell you….. we FINALLY bought a house!
We got the keys on the 4th of July and I have pretty much been spinning right round like a record player ever since then.
Both of my hands were needed in this juggling act, thus I took a break from the blog, writing, and my sanity creativity in general.
But buying a house is supposed to be exciting right?!?
I suppose like anything I expected to feel one way (complete elation and unending joy) and was both surprised and embarrassed to feel, well……. differently……. (overwhelmed, unsettled, undeserving and freaking EXHAUSTED by the process).
The excitement and toasting and sketching out plans is all fun and games until one of you is brave enough to say out loud what both of you are thinking……
“Alrighty…….now we just have to MOVE. “
Moving is hard. Change is hard.
I realized with this shuffling and shifting of all of the things…. how much of my happiness is wrapped up in a warm blanket of routine and predictability. How much of my daily joy and peace was weaved in with my string bean vines, rooms that smell like us, peony blooms and evenings with my hose.
Moving is not a warm blanket.
It is making phone calls. Having meetings. Signing papers. Buying packing tape. Painting walls. Putting things in boxes. Crying with your face buried in your baby’s crib sheets because at the new house he will be sleeping in a big boy bed. It’s saying goodbye to rose bushes. Neighbors. Empty rooms that now sound all echo-y and weird. It’s scheduling floor installations and getting mad at Ron because he didn’t talk to Nate and now here John is with the wrong floors and oh, no, actually we cant just live without floors for another 3 weeks. It’s paying a babysitter so you can drive to the new house while your kids are sleeping to tear out a wall and paint cabinets. It’s feeling bad that your kids drew on the walls. It’s rearranging your whole life.
It was a summer of rearranging.
But now we are here.
And isn’t it lovely?
It’s everything we dreamed of and more.
It is where our boys will grow up.
With space to roam, trees to climb, dirt to dig in, and rooms to laugh in.
We will grow food here, and flowers and magic.
And finally now….. as I snuggle up in my sweater with my laptop and a cup of coffee…. I begin to write again.
The leaves outside are changing colors and starting to fall…. The things in my life are starting to fall into place again, as well.
The boxes are slowly being unpacked.
Paintings are getting hung, then hung again somewhere else.
Rooms of the house are looking like we live in them. Not just exist in them…. but live in them.
I walk around and look out our windows and smile.
Sunlight streaming in and the wood floors feeling warm.
The boys are back in school.
The rhythm of our life is beating again in our house.
Over the years I have read a whole lot of books, articles, blogs, instruction manuals, on this crazy little thing called parenting….
When my youngest became mobile and started taking over the world, my twins were still two.
I’ll say that again for those peeps in the back….
That is three boys under the age of three…
I was aging about 160 years a day.
Each day started with a main goal of keeping them all alive…
…and then if there was time for anything else…. well then yes, do that.
I was swimming in a sea of high chairs, diaper orders, baby gates and black out curtains… buying stock in Costco wipes was considered… but there was no time for that.
At the end of most days I would belly flop on my bed and think “I thought I would be better at this.”
But like anything else that starts out being foreign and hard,
I started to find ways to navigate.
Reading other people’s theories, strategies, struggles, tips, successes and stories were, for a while, my life line.
I’d take what I needed from each one, apply it to what was happening in my own house for whatever phase or season we were in, add a dash of observation and common sense…. and by gathering a little from here, a little from there…. I finally found a rhythm in our day.
The days became more predictable and routine and it no longer surprised me that I now required caffeine much the way a car requires gasoline.
I found that like Labradors or Thoroughbreds,
little boys need fresh air, and space to run, and a lot of it.
I learned that in between those times of running in fields, there were just as many times that they needed a lap to sit on, a pair of eyes looking just at them, a hand to hold.
I learned I needed those exact same things almost as much, if not more.
The calm and togetherness, followed by adventure and movement.
The breathing in. The breathing out.
I stumbled on this article as I was writing this post and love the summary of what this ‘breathing in and breathing out’ business really means for us parents…..
“In the inhaling or breathing-in phase the child directs his attention to an activity that basically relates him to himself. For little children each breathing-in period (drawing, water painting, knitting, eating…) is very short because little children can only concentrate for short periods of time. In the exhaling or breathing-out period, the child relates mainly to the surrounding world (free play, free running etc.). For each breathing-in period the child needs a breathing-out period and so a pattern is established. When the children are in the breathing-in period, you have to make sure you are present, so the child feels ah, here I feel my parents, they are there for me. After that, for very short time, you can do what you have to do at home and you can tell your child you have to wait because I need to do this. And this will be all right because you know you have been present with the child.” -Helle Heckmann, Kindling Magazine
I started bringing this pattern into our life after watching, speaking to, and learning from the teachers at the Waldorf school my boys attend.
The beating heart of the school is creating rhythm in a child’s life.
Bringing the child inward for more focused learning, and then letting them explore outwardly.
For us, this breathing in and out looks different every day in our own home, but the pattern (for the most part) remains the same………
The snuggled up on the couch reading Charlotte’s Web morning, followed by a forest filled afternoon…. the boys running on trails and climbing logs while I hang back and enjoy my walk.
The pajama pants watercolor session around the dining room table, followed by me digging in my garden while the boys make mud pies.
The kids sitting on the kitchen counter while we make muffins together, followed by a park outing where the boys ride their bikes while I read my book in the sun.
A picnic lunch shared together on a blanket outside, followed by them playing astronauts in their room while I attack the mountain of laundry.
Sewing a pillowcase while listening to Neil Young, followed by them climbing a tree outside while I paint in my journal.
The pouring the coffee into the mug, followed by the pouring of the wine into a glass..:-)
Back and forth, in and out, over and over, through out our days, and weeks, and months and now, years.
This brought a rhythm to our life.
The times I get frustrated with their ‘neediness’ is almost always a day I neglect our ‘togetherness’…. our ‘breath in’. Some days we hit the ground running and it is go go go and I forget how much they we all need that breath. That time where I actually sit down with them… look into their eyes, hear what they are saying to me, build something with them, create something together, sing or read or snuggle under a quilt.
That time is as necessary to the ease of our day as food… oxygen….water…. whatever it is you can’t live without…. cheese? It is that necessary.
I’m learning that the days where I am overwhelmed by their insanity energy level is almost always a day where I have expected the cozy togetherness to last all day….. If I had a time machine, this would be a day (pre-kids) where I would binge watch an entire season of Top Chef, order Chinese take out and not leave my couch. Why don’t my kids understand my need for occasional hibernation? Why must such alarming levels of energy come so easily to these little bodies? I don’t know. But I do know that without a ‘breath out’, these kids be cray.
It doesn’t mean you have to go somewhere everyday…. we do most of our outward exploring right here. I hung a rope from a tree branch that occupies them for an entire afternoon. There are eggs to gather, coops to clean. I went to Goodwill and bought a bunch of old kitchen stuff for a mud kitchen. They do kids yoga in our living room. I play the Star wars theme song and they build star ships out of legos. The point of the breath out is that they are connecting to the world independently, and I am getting my shiznit done… (even if that just means sitting down and drinking some tea, reading a chapter in a book, or writing a blog post).
Speaking of that…. I currently have a toddler yanking on my shirt asking for a bagel that we don’t have and reminding me that my ‘breath out’ is over, and it’s time to make some sandwiches and draw a robot together.
Until next time…. whether you are enjoying a day of deep breathing or you are just keeping your ahead above water, know that what you are doing matters and I love ya!
In general, Monday mornings get a bad rap. No one says “Looks like someone has a case of the Saturdays”… It’s the end of the ‘fun’ days and the start of the ‘work’ days…
Saturday comes around and suddenly here comes Gene Kelly, heel clicking with Debbie Reynolds and singing “Good morning to you!!!!”, twirling around and making plans for the day…..
I am a stay at home mom to little kids… the only difference between Monday and Saturday is the letters in front of the word ‘day’.
There is no boss that is going to fire me, no stress of meeting deadlines, no promotion around the corner… nowhere I have to be… so really…. it’s up to me to decide…. is it the never ending week? or is it the never ending weekend?
On my ‘never ending week’ days I am gripping the steering wheel of my mom-mobile Subaru, driving to the grocery store with my three kids in carseats behind me…. looking up to the heavens and literally pleading with some higher power…. “please…. please let there be a car-cart. I know what I said before…. about not ever being one of those car-cart moms. But listen, for that, I am truly sorry. I didn’t know. How are you supposed to know? I need that car-cart. Please… I NEED that car-cart.”
On my ‘never ending weekend’ days I look over at my kids munching on their morning bacon on a random Thursday and realize…. We can go wherever we want today. We could pack our bags and drive to Montana, eat drive-thru fries the entire time, dip our toes in a river and no one would even know we were gone. Why would I stay here in my house breaking up lego fights all day when there is a world out there for us to explore? I pack some extra clothes and hit the road, Jack.
On my ‘never ending week’ days I usually have a big goal. Like drinking an entire cup of coffee without interruption. Like taking a shower. On these days I am quickly reminded of the super power children possess of knowing the exact moment you sit down or foolishly think you are in the clear and sneak off with your book. That is when the inevitable “I’M DONE!!!!” comes yelling from one of the bathrooms or a yelp as someone gets whacked on the head with a shovel outside…. On these days I feel like I spend the entire day attending the needs of others and usually end up belly flopping on my bed and saying out loud into my quilt…”I thought I’d be better at this…..”
On my ‘never ending weekend days’ I peek around the corner and find all three boys are playing quietly. One is building ‘The tallest tower in the wowld’, one is looking at a Richard Scary book and one is slipping on his boots to go ride his bike. I turn on some John Denver and sit down to paint. Lunch time comes around and we sit outside to have a picnic. We dig in the garden together and take a walk to feed the sheep our apple cores. My husband comes home from work and I tell him what a glorious day we had, he whisks the boys upstairs so I can have a break and I drive off to the gym smiling….
On my ‘never ending week’ days nothing goes right. The dog peed in the night and one kid had a bad dream. We all wake up cranky and dang it, we forgot to get more bread. I think about all the things we don’t have, all the things I didn’t do, all the things that would make our lives easier. I think about my 20’s and our lives before kids, about sleeping in and going out and making my own money and spending every last penny at Michaels.
On my ‘never ending weekend’ days I am about to put in a load of laundry. I look outside and catch the sun rising over our garden. I swoop up my kids and put them in the car, still in their pajamas. We drive an hour and a half north and hike into a crystal clear lake. We strip down naked and I give them their first swim lessons… swirling their little bodies through cool water and watching their eyes sparkle with delight. We crawl out and eat ripe nectarines perched on warms rocks. We hike back to the car and sing drunken sailor songs with our windows down and wave to strangers.
On my ‘never ending week’ days I am on my knees mopping up spilled milk… mixed with play doh…. and something else from the bottom of someone’s boot they forgot to take off at the door. The little one is climbing the fence and I run out in my socks to grab him before he hightails it down our driveway and the twins are upstairs emptying their drawers onto the floor to find their favorite sweats that they won’t find because I forgot to do laundry. I haven’t washed my hair in three days and I look over to see my husband freshly showered, packing his lunch for the day. It’s 8:00 am and I am already exhausted. I think “What I would give to trade places with you just for today….”
On my ‘never ending weekend’ days I am sitting on a log in my bathing suit on the beach. It is 11:00 am on a Tuesday and it is 75 degrees. I take a sip of my iced coffee and lift my face to the sun. The boys are squealing with joy as they thrash around in the water and run over to show me moon shells and crab claws and ask if they can put them on their treasure shelves at home before they run back into the surf. I snap a picture and send it to my husband…. “I wish you were here….”. On these days I wouldn’t trade places with anyone in the world.
On my ‘never ending week’ days I ask my son to put on his shoes because we are going to be late for school. I ask him again and again nicely, calmly…. using my monotone mom voice that sounds sweet but really is yelling inside my head and finally I say “Tate! why haven’t you put on your shoes? we are going to be late!!” He looks up at me with tears in his eyes and says “But Mom, you’ve never shown me how…….” …….And my heart breaks in two. I later sob in the bathroom and tell myself how horrible I am, but for now I just kneel down and quietly show him how to loosen the straps… I really have never shown him how, I realize. I apologize and we strike a deal that I will slow down and show him how to do more things, so then he can do them on his own.
TODAY I woke up to the little one sneaking into our bed…. the sun was rising and the sky was pink. He falls back asleep and I feel his sweet breath on my cheek. I look over at my husband and catch him smiling. I smile too. We have everything we ever wanted. Everything we ever hoped and dreamed and asked for is right here… it is surrounding us. We get up and drink coffee together and watch the boys run around squealing…. At some point one of us glances at the clock…. time to start the day…..
It’s in this moment that I realize…..
When my feet hit the floor every morning, it is me that decides what kind of day it will be. Even the days that I am mopping up vomit, shoving on mismatched socks, making appointments and feeling the pull of the ‘never ending week’…… Even those days I can decide to get up, take a bow, send a picture to my mom friends that will make them smile and feel less alone. Even on those days I can take off my sweats, put on a dress, turn on some swing music and teach them the twist. Even on those days I get to be here, right where I always wanted to be…. next to my babies… watching them grow up.
I never actively choose to have a ‘never ending week’ day.
I just sometimes forget that I am living a ‘never ending weekend’ life.
And maybe the real magic is taking a Monday and turning it into Saturday.
I’m 35 now…. and I finally feel like I know myself…my style…. my niche…. my whatever you want to call it.
Like I have been picking up pieces of the puzzle my whole life and I am finally sitting down, looking at them, dusting old ones off, getting to know the new ones, and putting them all together.
The finished puzzle is shaping up to look a lot like the photo of me when I was 4.
Care free, bright, floral, mis-matched, happy, and dressing myself in things that make me feel like how you feel when you are on a swing…..free.
I am discovering little things about myself every day that may seem silly to others but have been monumental to me.
I know that a grey v neck tee shirt has no place in my closet…….despite what every magazine article that I have been reading since the 7th grade tells me.
I know that there are girls out there that get up and curl their hair every day….. and that I will never be one of them.
I know that there is no $80 mascara that looks better on my eyelashes than good old $5 Maybelline from Rite aid.
I know that I am more likely to be envious of what the 8 year old at the park is wearing then what her mom is…. I might linger at the monkey bars….pssst…. where did you get those lavender polka dot tights?
I think I wasted a lot of time in my life trying to figure out what kind of girl I was.
Or maybe I always knew… But for a long time I only let parts of her come out to play.
It probably started right around the age of 11. The year I was starting to become aware of what other girls were wearing…. and that some girls played hop scotch and wore striped leggings. Some girls stood in a circle and giggled in skirts. Some hung from bars on the playground in jeans.
Although I was friends with all of these girls, I have always gotten along with pretty much everyone…. I knew I was a tom boy. I never wore skirts or dresses or tights or anything pretty. Girls that go out and play football with the boys at recess don’t wear any of those sorts of things, even though I wanted to. At least that’s what my 11 year old brain thought.
A couple weeks ago I hiked to the top of a mountain with my 3 little boys in a dress with ruffles and polka dot tights and I have never felt more like my true self. It was exhilarating.
Dear 11 year old self,
You wear whatever the fuck you want to wear to recess.
My mom is going to read this and see that I just wrote the F word and be shocked, so I guess I should also tell you that I also say the F word now and then…. even though I wear a bunch of lace and pin flowers in my hair….
My high school senior pictures were snapped with me posing on a weird ledge with a half smile in navy pants and a plain button down sweater….a half smile because pretty girls in magazines have big eyes, even when they smile. They have pearly white teeth and apparently they wore button down cardigans. At least that is what my 16 year old brain thought.
Dear 16 year old self,
Have that photographer meet you in your back yard…. sit on your horse bare back in your favorite Roxy tee shirt and cut-offs….yes even with your horrid softball tan lines. You should be eating a slice of Central Market pizza and be smiling so big that your eyes disappear inside of your giddy face, because that was what 16 looked like for you….and that’s what your smile actually looks like…. and in 20 years it will be your favorite thing about yourself.
In my 20’s I was still kind of fumbling about…horse girl, coffeehouse girl, bartender girl, dance in the club girl, social butterfly girl, artsy crafty girl, cozy stay inside and read girl, camping/hiking pnw girl. The 20’s are for trying on all the things…. taking a little from here…. a little from there. Yes, I like flowy skirts, Nope, never going to wear slacks…. not ever..
You start getting more comfortable in your skin. You start to understand what works for you. You like picking out what you’re going to wear that night, packing for romantic getaways……. you have your favorite stores, things are feeling pretty joyful….. and then——————
Dear 20 year old self,
You are about to have yourself a litter of children…. enjoy that mini skirt.
Having babies is like the intermission of the wearing your joy movie.
There is no…. loss of joy… its just…. distributed differently .
Take this picture for example…..
I am, in all seriousness, ridiculously happy here, I am not winning any fashion awards…. but… I have everything I ever wanted in this picture.
I got my 2 year old twins. I got my newborn baby. I got my breast pump. I got my laptop set up to watch a horse show. I got my little burp cloth. I got my 3XL Wonder woman tee shirt from Target. Good to go.
I want to make sure that everyone knows just how much joy that horribly large but undeniably comfortable shirt brought me through those months… You seriously don’t give a shiznit at that point. You just want to be comfortable.
You are feeding a baby from your body. You are staring at their eyelashes and little fingernails. You are wondering how you made such a perfect little…and oh…yikes….there’s the Fed Ex man at the door…. welp, guess he saw my boob out again… oh well.
It’s a level of not giving a shiznit that is off the charts.
And let’s not forget about the joy Dan was feeling…….
Now here’s a guy who is jam packed full of potty training, newborn night feeds, hormonal wife joy…….
Here’s the deal, folks. These years are weird. They just are.
You’re so tired and busy and happy and confused and amazed and overwhelmed and grateful and hormonal and weird.
I don’t think that I ever really forgot myself…. she was always there….I was just so freaking busy that I had to have a quick a conversation with her that went a little something like this….
“Hey girl. I’m not putting anything cute on you right now or washing you enough or really hanging out with you a lot these days…. I know… I miss it too… But I haven’t forgotten about you…… and as soon as I can… I’ll be back for you. I promise.”
So yeh, not a bunch of joy wearing….
But still joy.
So much joy.
Fast forward a year or so……
…..and here comes 2018…. looking all new and shiny and potty trained and I was ready.
Maybe it’s coming out of that season of having toddlers (let us just overlook the fact that I still have one) or getting older… or the just the simple fact that you are guaranteed not to be spit up on…….
But I have felt this shift in me that is like…. I just want to be a baller.
I want to wake up, wear beautiful clothes, twirl around in them….and just…. DO THINGS.
Who even knows what, but I just want to do them.
So right around this time I start feeling the good vibes, I stumble on Kelly Roberts.
She is a true inspirational soul, an artist, and no, of course I don’t actually know her, but I am sure she is a real peach….AND she was offering an e-course called… ‘Wear your joy’.
A 30 day prompted course to inspire and guide you through rediscovering the FUN of getting yourself dressed every day.
You look at your closet .
You rid yourself of every piece that you don’t absolutely adore.
You try on clothes you already have in different ways, make a little joy altar, gain inspiration from others, I FREAKING loved it.
I started looking at getting myself dressed not as a hurried task, but as a way to set the tone for the day.
And none of this saving special clothes for special occasions…..
I now give myself permission to treat every day like it was and is the most special day of the year.
Nothing is off limits.
I wear my best dress for a walk to visit the sheep.
My favorite sweater to drop my kids off at school.
A spritz of fancy perfume to check the mail.
It feels GOOD.
I went into a vintage shop with my friend Nicole and after taking a tequila shot with the chatting up the owner she went to the back and brought out a stack of 1950’s handmade ‘feed sack’ dresses. “These will be perfect for you.”
I bought 6.
She sent me the last 3 in the mail a month later with a note that said ‘I know you will give them a good home and they will bring you joy.’ (Thank you Gretchen🙂
I wore them nearly every day this summer.
I gather eggs in the pockets, dig in the garden… I took them to the fair, on hikes, to the beach…. I sit in them and wonder about the woman who sewed them…. what kind of life did she lead, where have they been?
These are the things that bring me joy.
At 35 that is all I am really interested in anymore.
The things that give me that squishy, disappearing eye smile I was talking about before. The one I get when I am completly in the moment happy… when I am laughing with my friends, dancing with my husband, looking down at my newborn sons.
It’s the worst kind of smile you can have according to Dermatologists everywhere.
“Oh my, you do smile with your whole face don’t you?” one told me a couple years ago. ” Well stay out of the sun, use this cream and in a few years we will fix you right up with some injectables and you will be happy as a clam….”
As I am writing this I am running my fingers over the small lines that are starting to form. The years of happiness are catching up to me, as if that is a bad thing.
Dear 35 year old self,
Don’t ever listen to someone else’s version of your joy. Surround yourself with things that make you smile with your whole face, play in the sun with your kids all day, every day…. wear rainbow hats and flower sweaters and ridiculous socks…….. and those wrinkles…. that proof on your face that you live a wonderful and fulfilling life? Well that is your best accessory.
Find out what brings YOU joy….
Find out what YOU want more of….
Find out what makes YOU feel good….
And then for goodness sake ADORN yourself with it…..
COVER your entire body with things that make you giddy.
There is writing to be done, deep, personal writing, but I wanted to start out by just giving you a somewhat gritty, no-nonsense look at the actual changes we made in our life and schedules that we followed this year.
If you have not yet read the first post…. do so here…
Ok. Here we go.
First thing we did was pin point areas in our life that we wanted to attack.
I am going to go through my personal process, some of which overlaps with Dan’s…. but he was very much on his own journey , so we will talk to him about that in a later post.
I made an actual list.
Things that caused me daily annoyance.
Morning routine (waking up already feeling behind, cooking breakfast for the kids while Dan was trying to get out the door to work, me getting myself ready while the boys were running rampant, getting THEM dressed… you get it….)
My energy (I wanted to get us off this roller coaster of either being squeaky clean of our health….. to being totally reckless and eating pasta right out of the pot while texting Dan pictures of melted cheese as if I was sending him nudes… like…. oooh baby…look at what naughty things I am up to… you know you want in on this cheese…. )
My closet (this goes hand in hand with the frustration with getting myself ready in the morning, feeling rushed and almost always just grabbing a sweatshirt and some comfy pants paired with a bumpy messy bun and a side of yesterday’s eyeliner to run out the door)
Too much random stuff. (I’m talking tinker toy sticks everywhere, little random blobs of plastic that you cant even remember where it came from and yet you just keep ‘organizing’ it in another random bin. Did I use the word ‘random’ enough in that paragraph? ok good.
It was long…. but golly it felt good to write it all out.
And then I just started going through the list one by one and found solutions.
I wasn’t kidding when I said one of the most liberating moments of my life was when I threw away ALL of the sippy cup tops and bottoms that had been shoved in our cupboard and bought each kid one stainless steel water bottle.
Ohhhh…. and the joy of dumping all of those lone socks that had been floating around their closet…. for years…. and getting them new socks of one color so you never have to pair another sock again in your life…. I mean…. its the little things, man….
But let’s dive into some of the big things.
And trust me when I say, it took many nights of Dan and I sitting down, and talking about how to tackle the big things.
We have always put our kids to bed early. Since those twins were three months old their bedtime has been 6:30.
Now that they are a bit older and there is a third kid in the mix it is 7:00, 7:15 ish… but that has always been a non-negotiable. Dan and I have our evenings to ourselves. We cook our dinner, pour our wine, talk about our days, listen to music, throw in the occasional hip hop dance off, and just…. be together. It is the best.
But to carve out some alone time we had to switch it up a bit.
Weeknights NOW look like this:
Dan comes home from work around 5, I usually have the kids sitting down eating their dinner. We sit together, the kids spew everything we did that day to their Dad, maybe Dan plays some guitar, maybe Finn throws some squash, during December we lit candles and sang songs as a part of our advent, but this is our version of a ‘family dinner’….
….at 5:30 one of us takes the keys to the car….. and peaces out.
Dan takes a Monday/Wednesday, I take a Tuesday/Thursday… some weeks we switch…. the general idea is we give each other a smooch and say “see ya later alligator, enjoy your time.”
The one at home finishes up with the kiddos dinner, gets them in a bath, pj time and stories…. and night night kids!
The one with the keys gets to go…..wherever…. and alone. GLORY!
Dan goes to the gym. Every time. He lifts. He sits in the steam room. He has made friends with every employee. That is his happy place.
Most of the time I go to the gym too. I swim and enjoy the silence of being under water…. I don’t swim in a lane. I swim in the ‘free swim area’ like a little kid and just kind of swirl around and smile. I go on the stairmaster, The goal being to get stronger for hikes, here I listen to my favorite podcasts or books on tape. I run on the treadmill, slowly and more of a wog…(half walk half jog), I watch Survivor on my phone and plot my future victory. I sit in the sauna, the steam room, the hot tub…..sometimes the hot tub is ALL I do…. There are times I am completely alone, other times I find myself immersed in a conversation with Don, the 90 year old grandpa who still swims laps every day. I shower…. For as long as I want…. I use yummy smelling soaps and shampoos I bought just for my gym bag, I dry off in a fluffy towel. I put on my pajamas and drive the 10 mins home feeling like a new woman.
In the summer sometimes I drive straight to the beach. I walk slowly and think, or run fast and pretend I’m one of those girls that do that sort of thing. Or I lay on my belly and read a book and let the low sunlight warm my thighs, maybe take a dip…. that is always a good idea.
By the time we come back from our lone adventure, the person who put the kids down has started dinner. We sit together and chat, and on these days, we don’t turn on the TV. We eat together, albeit late, but what do we care? I’ll take a 9:00 steak dinner made by a man I’m in love with after a dip in the ocean any day…..
The other thing we added to the routine is after dinner, we snuggle up in bed… and read. Books have always been my thing, but this is something that is new to Dan, to sit and enjoy reading, so that has been nice to see him find a new way to relax.
Ok, you still with me? I’m about to drop another big thing on ya….
Food…. and everything we put into our body…
This was huge. Since having the twins we have done a dozen or more Whole 30’s… Don’t know what a Whole 30 is? There is a mountain of information that you can find out on the good ole google search bar. But you can also read the book, ‘It starts with food’.
…but the gist is… no sugar, no dairy, no bread/pasta/good stuff for 30 days. Reset your body. And then after those 30 days you slowly reintegrate things back into your diet and identify what triggers you or just doesn’t make you feel good. And we have always felt incredible while doing them. But if we weren’t doing one…. we slowly let old habits creep in.
Let me be real. Dan and I are secretly fat kids inside.
Like, we don’t like to tell people about it…. but we can seriously get dirty with food.
And we love to drink. period. I’m just being honest.
We have spent 11 years having a rockin’ good time…
But in your 30’s what comes with the ‘good times’ is the next 10 days feeling lousy…. tired… bloated…. slow.
So how to still have a rockin’ good time, but cut out all the crud that is making us feel not so great? That was the question…
And I think it is mandatory to do this part together.
Because to replace old habits with new ones is tough! You have to have one strong person when the other feels weak, you need to link arms and pour that La Croix that rhymes with enjoy and forge ahead together on this new path.
We changed our mindset from a 30 day cleanse that has ‘results’ or an ‘after’ to ‘We are changing the way we treat our bodies… indefinitely. We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to put in the time, to do the research, and to make health a priority.’ I mean, it sounds so cliche…. like I’m about to sell you something (don’t worry, I’m not) but that is pretty much exactly what we said.
I read or heard somewhere that Americans will do endless research when it comes to buying something like a car…. but when they walk into a grocery store to buy ground beef, they will pick the cheapest, bulk price lump of meat and call it good.
We didn’t follow a diet. We just did endless research, shared with each other what we were learning, replaced all of the old habits with things we were genuinely excited about, and now a year later, can confidently say we have completely changed the way our family looks and enjoys food.
This is just what we have landed on that makes us feel the best throughout the day.
We don’t keep ANYTHING in the house that we doesn’t make us feel good.
For lunch is like whatever makes you feel good, in the summer it could be a salad from the garden, right now I am on a ‘snack platter’ kick…. (nuts, uncured salami, dried peaches, broccoli, leftovers….whatever floats your health boat).
And for dinner we cook a healthy FEAST. This I think was/is important for us.
To cook a delicious meal together and sit down to eat it has always been our thing. I am talking full on rib eye steaks with roasted potatoes, home made aioli, and caramelized onions and mushrooms. All local ingredients, no added bullshit, just delicious and made us feel good and strong. None of this handful of carrots and a side of broiled chicken. But we did have to say goodbye to pasta dinners, enchiladas, pizza, things that we loved, but made us feel like yuck.
If I had to connect our eating style to something mainstream, I would say it’s closest relative is Paleo.
We grew a garden full of our own vegetables. I could write a whole post just on the joys of this….. oh wait, maybe I already did 🙂
We got bad ass Yeti water bottles in fun colors and drink A TON OF IT.
We researched vitamins and supplements and how they work in your body, which ones actually make it into your bloodstream and which ones are a waste of money…. and now we take them. (read ‘Naked Calories’ and don’t be scared away by the cover photo 😉
But of course we also do this….
If we are at Prima Bistro, and it is a special date night, we share a bottle of wine and each get our own creme brulee (you don’t share a Prima dessert… you just don’t) after the pork belly and duck fat potatoes….. (you should really go to Prima…..)
If I am driving the kids home from a hike from Deception Pass and we want some drive thru fries… we get them once in a while.
We haven’t gone completely insane…
But to change the food in our HOUSE. What we eat daily and habitually. To not be on or off a wagon. To just be enjoying what we eat and knowing it comes from…. to not be having a drink or two every night, but only on occasion or when we want to….those are big steps with monumental changes in our bodies.
OK. Morning Routine. Last one for today…
Morning routine really just came down to Dan and I communicating what we wanted/needed in the morning.
Dan needed to get ready for work, shower, make his smoothie, pack his lunch, get right for the day…. but he wanted to see the kids before he went.
I needed….. not to be feeling like a crazy person.
Those were the basic goals.
But once we talked through it, it all became pretty simple.
Because we put our kids down to bed early, they get up early.
So at 6:30 in the morning we have little guys trickling down the stairs wanting to build legos and start their days.
We used to fight this.
Please just sleep a little longer… ok fine…. you play…. but mommy and daddy are going to lay here in bed.
But what did that actually accomplish?
Morning routines NOW look like this:
First kid wakes up and comes down the stairs….
We get up too, we don’t fight for that 10 extra minutes of what isn’t even sleep. We are rested, there isn’t any need for it. We just get up and make ourselves a cup of coffee.
We sit on the couch.
We drink our coffee and watch our kids kind of groggily start playing. Usually cars and legos. We spend this 10 mins all together before the hustle and bustle start. And its wonderful.
Then Dan goes off to shower, I start breakfast…
The boys have eggs and bacon or sausage with toast and fruit every morning. They are beasts.
By the time breakfast is done, we say goodbye to Daddio for the day and so begins our day……….
I feel so silly writing this all out. But I know I am always fascinated by other families routines and what works for them, so I am just assuming if you have made it this far, you are like me…. you just want to know… what do other people do?
This is just a part of what we did. But here ya go…..
I am going to dive into how I changed up the kids routine, my closet and style and some more personal thoughts in the coming weeks…. reflecting feels so good doesn’t it?
I am sure my close friends are sick to death on hearing about this… it’s no real discovery by any means…. it’s just that it feels so gosh darn good to feel good.
We sat across from each other with our bottle of champagne, the last of it’s contents being poured into two glasses that sat next to a demolished cheese board..
After 4 years of being governed by a toddler dictatorship that revolved around nap schedules, feedings, white noise and monitors…
We had decided that it was time for a new chapter….
* glasses raised*
It was time to take our lives back.
So… that’s how it started.
It was just an idea.
An idea of doing something for ourselves.
Not to be a better Mom or Dad.
Not to be a better Wife or Husband.
Just for us.
Remember who we were before the blur of wants and needs and responsibilities started being catapulted at our head?
We talked about them as if they were people we once knew.
But they weren’t gone…. they just….
Had kids now.
And damn it, we love those kids.
Have you seen them? They are so flippin’ cute.
We love our life we have created.
We are just about as happy as 2 people that went and had 3 babies in 2 years could possibly be… even after those babies became mobile and hungry and insane independent…..
And even more impressive…. we still love each other….
We are one of the eye roll inducing, never fight, happy camper couples that people tell you don’t exist….
But you know what?
Intertwined in all of that happiness and squished in family selfies and island life magic were still two separate people who felt like something was missing in their own personal lives….
We didn’t know what, we just knew we both really wanted to take the year to really focus on ourselves…and frankly… just go Beastmode on life.
And let me tell you, when you are on this journey….
and you start taking the steps and picking up the pieces and start putting them all together…..
People want to know what the heck you are doing.
They ask you quietly at a coffee shop, “You are glowing, what have you been doing?”
“I saw Dan today, he looks incredible, has he been working out?”
“You guys seem so happy, what’s the secret?”
And in the same vein, YOU want to shout it from the roof tops.
You want to tell everyone.
Listen up everyone, I found it!
The secret to living your best life.
I know you’ve heard it a hundred times over…
At least I have.
Everyone has a version of what this looks like.
I have an inbox full of people inviting me to join their program, buy their shake, wrap myself in their cloths, Use their brand of lotion, paint my lips with their stain that won’t rub off, press on their nails that last the longest…
Because for them…. these were their missing pieces… these are things that have brought joy and goodness into their lives…. These are the things that help them walk a little taller and smile a little bigger.
I can scroll though a hundred peach colored Instagram moms that are holding rolls of stomach skin, smiling with their eyelash extensions and wrinkle free foreheads…. announcing that they finally can say they love their bodies…
…And just as many pictures of cauliflower ‘tortillas’ made by glowing 20 somethings with six packs that start their mornings with yoga in a field and juice from a celery plant…
If you are looking for missing pieces in your life….. once you start looking, you will find they are everywhere… they are dropped by people who have already found their answer like bread crumbs.
The only problem with following those bread crumbs is that they often lead to someone else’s version of THEIR best life.
The secret is there is NO secret….
There are no missing pieces.
There are just pieces that belong.
And pieces that don’t.
You just have to look at YOUR life to find out which ones are which.
And what does that mean?
It means you dissect every nook and cranny of your life. You eliminate every time suck, every daily annoyance, every thing that doesn’t bring you happiness or make you better.
Throw them away.
Stop doing them.
It means you replace those things with things that do.
Things that do bring you happiness, that do make you better.
And by the way most of those things, aren’t even really things….
They are 30 minutes in a steam room.
Sitting on the beach in the sun with a book.
It was just an idea.
But we took it and ran with it.
What started out with some small changes soon trickled down into every corner of our world.
We have spent this entire year reconstructing EVERYTHING in our lives.
I mean everything.
Everything from rescheduling our days to give each other alone time, to throwing away all the random sippy cup tops in our cupboards, to changing the way we eat, the way we drink, to donating nearly all of our kids toys, to getting physical therapy, to having our blood drawn, to taking vacations, to not watching TV, to joining a gym, to reading books, to listening to podcasts, to researching vitamins, all the way down to buying nice smelling, homemade soap…. and new socks.
I have been itching to share all of the goodness for so long….
Over the next few weeks I will dabble and reflect on all this year has taught us….
The habits we have mastered and the intentions we are still fumbling with…
But for now I leave you with what I know for sure.
You don’t need a goal weight to start being healthy.
You don’t need the perfect property to plant a magic garden.
You don’t need a reason or even a why.
You don’t need a countdown to midnight to start living life to the fullest.
I had a dream I was holding two babies.
I felt the weight of them in my arms, smelled their sweet little bald heads.
It was so real and I lie awake the next morning trying to remember every detail.
I rolled over, nudged Dan and told him.
“I had a dream I was holding two babies….”
We had always known we wanted a house full of kids.
It was the reason we were introduced in the first place!
We had both answered the question of ‘how many kids do you want?’ the exact same way to our mutual friend Christina….
Dan, when he went to college with her in Rhode Island.
“Enough to field my own baseball team.”
And me, sitting across from her in a bar in California 3 years later.
“9. So I can have a little baseball team…”
Christina looked across at me and said…. “You need to meet my friend.”
And so it was that she married us 7 years later in the mountains of Leavenworth on a sunny September day.
…Approximately 5 minutes later we got started on that baseball team.
You are led to believe through your teenage years, that when you are ready to have a baby, then poof, you get pregnant.
For some that is true.
I had taken probably a hundred pregnancy tests in the 7 months we had been married.
In hindsight 7 months is not a long period of time.
But anyone who has been there, knows that when you are longing for a baby… time has a way of being excruciatingly long.
Every month that goes by and ends with a period is a failure.
Everyone asks if you are pregnant and you have to fake a smile when you say “not yet!”
Every where you turn is a round belly or chubby cheeked baby or a facebook announcement.
You switch lines at the grocery store because you bought a box of pregnancy tests from that lady last week and for some reason, her seeing you buy a second box would be the worst.
So when I nudged Dan and told him about my dream and he told me to “take a pregnancy test…”
A little part of me didn’t want to.
I wanted to stay in the dream and not be disappointed with another ‘NOT PREGNANT” stick to add to my under the bathroom counter trash can.
So when I peed on the stick that morning and put it on the counter and went out to feed the chickens, I ALMOST didn’t want to see what it said.
I wanted to go about my day without knowing so the hope of it being positive would still be there.
So when I finally made my way back to the bathroom and peeked over at the stick and read the words PREGNANT…. I almost didn’t believe it.
I sat on my bathroom floor and cried tears of joy.
I waited all day long for Dan to come home to tell him in person that he was going to be a Dad.
The look on his face, I will never forget it.
3 weeks later we were sitting in an ultrasound room when our doctor found the second heartbeat and announced to us that we were having….. TWINS!
My babies turn 5 today.
I can’t remember the time before I knew them.
Oh sure, I remember things I did.
Places I went.
I vaguely remember sleeping in….
But I can not wrap my brain around a time where my ears didn’t know the sound of their names.
That my eyes didn’t know every detail in their faces.
That my nose didn’t know the smell of their hair.
Was there a time that I didn’t know the difference between a ‘I’m hurt’ cry and a ‘I’m hungry’ cry?
Have my arms ever not known the warmth of their bodies or my hands ever not reached instinctively for theirs?
Was my stomach ever flat and not covered in stripes?
Was there a time when I didn’t hear the name ‘Mom’ called out 100 times a day?
If there was, I just can’t recall.
On the way to school today they had me tell them the story of the day they were born.
They ask for this story over and over again and they squeal with delight when I tell them the part about the hospital security having to “shhhhhh” their dad when he went running through the halls yelling “TWO BOYS!!!! I HAVE TWO BOYS!!!!!!”
I tell them when I looked in their eyes for the first time how I laughed out loud because all of those 9 months of wondering who you would be…. and there you were!
Of course it was you!
I knew you.
They ask me who liked milk the most? (Henry) and who crawled first? (Tate).
…And did you like us living in your belly? (most of the time)
…And what was your favorite Thanksgiving? (The one when I got to hold them for the first time)
…And were you ALWAYS my Mommy? they asked today.
“Yes. Even before you were born, I knew I was going to be your Mommy.”
And on this day that these boys turn 5, I realize it is also the birthday of becoming a Mom.
I wrote down this story today to remind me….
For today…. when its easy to reflect on all of the happy times…
But also for the hard days…. when hearing “Mom!” yelled over and over makes me want to hide in my bedroom and cover my ears.
Remember all of those days when all you wanted was to be someone’s Mom.
Remember what a gift it is that you are now.
5 seems so big compared to those tiny babies.
They are so able and smart, funny and kind.
But 5 is still little.
They still climb in my lap for snuggles and need me to help them with their shoes sometimes.
5 years as a Mom, and I have learned so much.
I can navigate fevers and book swim lessons.
I can kiss away boo boos and pack a balanced lunch.
But I still have so much to learn.
I am not confident in my math homework-helping capabilities.
I am certain I will be too nosy when it comes to girls.
I still haven’t figured out how to get them all dressed and out the door in the mornings without breaking a sweat.
But one thing is certain.
I am proud of these two beaming boys.
I know for sure that they brighten this world.
I know that in 5 years that they have changed me for the better.
I know that the next 5 years will go by even faster.
And the next even faster than that.
I sure am glad I woke up from that dream and peed on a stick so I could get a front seat.
Happy Birthday Henry and Tate, and thanks for making me a Mom.
Just look up at any given time and you’ll find yourself surrounded by things that are growing.
Being around these things every day you don’t notice how fast it all happens.
The daily routine keeps you focused on the task at hand…
And then all of a sudden there is lettuce where there was just dirt.
Feathers where there was just fluff.
A toddler walking across a log no longer requiring your assistance.
A grey hair in your pony tail.
With everything that grows I fight a constant ‘hurry up’ and ‘slow down’ battle.
“I cant wait for you to grow up and get yourself dressed, but could you please just stay little and snuggle on my lap?”
“I am so excited to harvest that Kale, oh dear, is it already May? I haven’t planted my zucchini!”
“When will these chickens lay eggs? oh golly, not yet! We don’t have the coop done!”
What also comes with growing things is a tremendous sense of pride.
Every carrot plucked from the ground is triumph.
Every first step, first word, first day of school is another milestone.
Here is a picture from my potato harvest, staged like a newborn child…
I am always trying to learn more about the way things grow.
Evenings that once were spent sipping raspberry vodka, are now full of you tube videos on pruning raspberry plants.
Instead of consuming platters of hot wings I am looking up chicken feed for laying hens…
reading articles about vitamin c and composting…
potty training and booster seats….
fertilize, but not too much.
water, but don’t overwater.
throw a cheerio in and try to get them to aim at it….
But of course, what I have learned in all of the research and experimenting experience,
is to REALLY understand how things grow,
all you have to do is observe.
Know your own soil, your own kid.
What works for a farmer in Michigan isn’t going to work the same for a Whidbey Island tomato.
The cheerio trick only works for the kids that won’t cry when you throw a perfectly delicious snack into their potty.
You must give space for things to grow on their own, but offer support when needed.
This summer I was completely immersed in growing things.
Some things were planted with intention… Walla walla onions all neatly in a row.
Compost carefully mixed into soil…
Tomato plants bursting with fruit.
Other things were growing despite being planted by 4 year old hands,
who dump entire seed packets into holes and then have their 2 year old brother tromp back and forth over them for the entirety of summer…
Some plants were propped up with sticks, some were thinned out to help them get bigger, some were in beds that had been recently weeded, some were climbing up a trelis.
… and some were growing in mangled heaps, through cracks, over fences, anywhere they could find sunlight.
One sunflower that popped up behind our fire pit that grew against all odds, without bird netting or compost or even anyone noticing it until it bloomed.
I stood there thinking as I gazed up at that sunflower.
Stewing on the different ways that things grow.
I think of my own boys and how different they are.
One who is outgoing and confident but also incredibly clumsy and goofy.
This one could go about his day wearing nothing but dirt and backwards undies and be perfectly content.
He could grow in a pile of manure, provided it was well watered and had plenty of worms.
He would be a ground cover that spread out, twisting itself around everything he came into contact with, eventually taking over your whole garden.
One needing more patience and assurance.
My little perfectionist.
He likes his garden weed free and a Ph balanced soil.
He would be a bulb that you plant in the Fall.
when the blooms finally come in the Spring,
they are bright and beautiful, each petal just right.
And one who is…
picture the most hardy, grow-anywhere-despite-the-conditions plant…
maybe a cactus?
and that’s Finn.
There is no fence or pot that can contain a Finn….
He’s a wildflower for sure.
They are all thriving.
Each requiring different things to grow…
…and a few things that are the same.
They just want to be seen for who they are and be encouraged to grow in their own way.
I am reminded of a conversation I had with my Dad in High School.
We were driving and I was telling him my newest plan to take over the world.
Back then there was a new plan every week and he listened to them all.
I remember on this particular day he said…
“I am not worried about you, you’ll be successful no matter what you end up doing… that’s just who you are.”
And I thought about that over and over as I grew up,
I believed those words he said to me and still do.
I often wonder if I hadn’t had such a ‘non-conventional’ gardener for a Dad,
if I would have been encouraged to take a more stream-lined ‘go get a real job’ path.
As it was I was the lone sunflower behind the fire pit, just needing a little water and some sunshine to live the life I wanted.
I read somewhere that when sunflowers get tall, they may need a stick to reinforce their stem in case of wind.
I think sticks are for sunflowers what words of encouragement are for people.
All of the sunflowers in my garden get sticks, even the ones I didn’t plant.
With everything that grows there is opportunity to observe,
but also encourage.
Fertilize, but not too much…
water, but don’t over water….
One thing is for sure…
Things always grow in the direction of the sun.
If you can be that sun, that stick, that encouragement for others,
you might find that it will actually help you grow as well.
Once upon a time I had a job.
A job that paid money.
This job was teaching people how to ride horses.
Riding a horse can be as complicated (and expensive) as you want to make it.
You can literally spend your entire life and hundreds of thousands of dollars
on riding lessons, gadgets, hospital bills therapy and still be thrilled when your horse just simply comes to you when you call it.
This is also of course, parenting.
Riding a horse can also be as simple as throwing your leg over and trying to stay on.
It can be running out your back door, jumping on your pony bareback, galloping down a hill and squealing with delight as she puts her head down to eat grass and you go flying through the air into the dirt.
Sometimes pure survival is exhilarating.
When I was a riding instructor the hardest students to teach were adults.
Particularly adult women.
Even more specifically… Moms.
And of course, they were the ones who wanted it the most.
They would do anything if they could just ‘get good’ at this thing that they wanted to ‘get good’ at.
They would come to lessons announcing that they had read articles, found a horse back riding centered fitness class, subscribed to a riding magazine… bought a $2,000 saddle from a man with a french accent….
Surly this is the week it all comes together and becomes ‘easier’.
And I loved teaching these women.
I really did.
Even before becoming a Mom myself I understood that this time they were taking for themselves was important and sacred.
I loved hearing their stories and goals and fears and I loved being a part of the journey of them learning something new.
But of course,
In order for them to truly feel the joy of cantering a horse without whiplash and awkward saddle/rear slapping…
They would have to do the unthinkable.
The one thing that most Moms simply cannot do…
Their bodies are are so out of practice, that they have actually lost the physical ability to do this thing…
The impossible thing…
They would have to….
Not care so much.
Not overthink every movement, second guess every step.
Not overwhelm themselves with all of the opinions, the ‘tips’, the insane amount of information available out there.
They would have to stop yelling over their shoulder at me “Is this right? Am I doing it right????” every step of the way.
They would have to start trusting their body to just follow along and react.
“My hands? do you want them here? what about here? is this right????”
As their instructor I would patiently point out that the problem wasn’t their hands at all… it was that they were thinking too much about their hands.
This is me, parenting. And maybe every Mom I know.
Please for the love of God, just someone tell me how to do this right.
Kids are the easiest to teach.
They have little to no expectations… most of them are just happy to be in a barn petting a horse.
They want to learn, but they are more concerned about the steps to take to make it happen, not so much how they look doing it.
They aren’t worried about what might happen if the end result is achieved differently than instructed.
I had a student once who’s pony spooked and took off with her…
Her mom sat white as a ghost next to me, her finger hovering over 911 on her cell phone.
I was calmly but loudly giving instructions to pull the reins and say “whoa!”
The little girl responds by yelling out with delight…. “Is this what galloping feels like?!?!”
So what is it?
What is it that happens between the somewhat out of control gleeful gallop that feels so free and good…
And the paralyzing question of “Am I doing this right?”
Is it just life experience?
Knowing that hearts and ribs can break and the fear of what COULD happen takes over the joy of just being in the moment?
Is it because we learn to put value on moments?
I paid for horseback riding lessons…
I need to learn to prove it was worth it.
We said we were going on vacation this weekend…
by golly we are going to have fun even if it kills us!
My experience with horses and child rearing is that the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle.
Somewhere between the squealing little girl with wind blown hair and the Mom with pilates legs that don’t bend …
I learned through the years that the Mom lessons sometimes went best when I jumped on a horse myself, opened up the gate, and took them gallivanting in the woods.
I’d ask them questions about where they grew up instead of telling them how to make a 20 meter circle.
The freedom of not overthinking and just feeling the rhythm almost always unlocked their stiffness and before you knew it they were smiling from ear.
It was as if they had remembered the words to an old song.
I learned that the fearless kids still needed boundaries and goals and direction.
Their lessons often went best when given a upfront guarantee of some kind of adventure or ‘free time fun’ after the lesson was complete.
“If you want to jump, you need to learn how to go straight….” I would tell them.
But I watched time and time again as those very same without-a-care kids grew up,
little by little…. the ‘fears’ would creep in…
A sudden realization that another student was ‘better’ then them.
“Well, of course she won, SHE has a better horse.” They might say.
“Can you tell me what it takes to win the BLUE ribbon?” Asked the 14 year old who at 8 wanted to do nothing but comb the horses tail and pick hooves.
Eventually the need for some sort of validated success is craved.
I still have my old ribbons from horse shows past.
I’m still waiting for my motherhood trophy.
I find myself navigating stiff mom-lesson-moments in my own parenting journey.
Researching ‘OK to wake’ clocks.
It worked for so and so…it will work for me.
Second guessing myself in decisions…
Am I a ‘time out’ mom?
A ‘1-2-3 magic’ mom?
Should they be eating more organically grass fed beef?
But I also find joy in my wind-blown-hair-mom moments.
Get in the car kids we are going to climb a mountain today!
You know what, yes, yes we can bake zucchini bread.
This school feels right to me.
Let’s stay in pajamas and build forts.
Hell yeh, we can get Happy Meals on the way home.
Parenting is just a life long lesson on how to stay with the horse.
Finding your balance and creating rhythm.
Keeping your heels down not by forcing, but by relaxing and sinking down into them.
Keeping your eyes up, but not by staring, but SEEING what is surrounding you.
You know when it feels right, no one has to tell you.
Get out of the arena.
Go jump on bareback and gallop in a field…
Pack your kids up and go somewhere new.
Some of my earliest memories are sitting around a big wooden table with my Mom, sisters, Aunts, Grandma and Great Grandma, kneeding dough.
Aprons with flour down the front, heavy rolling pins, floral cheesecloths, and always that gentle rhythm of kneeding the dough…
I was 6 when I won my first county fair ribbon.
The local newspaper did an article about it.
4th place for ‘Rachel’s quick french bread’.
I was so proud.
Standing around that table with all of those strong women.
And I was becoming one of them.
Even now the smell of bread in the oven catapults me to that farmhouse kitchen in Rock Creek, Oregon.
My Grandma’s house that her husband and sons built for her.
It was always full of music and stories and something in the oven.
Stories of my Grandma and Grandpa having dances in their old barn.
Of my Great Grandma traveling west in a covered wagon to teach in one room schoolhouse.
Of my Dad and his brothers and sisters working the farm, getting into mischief, growing up.
Stories of baking.
Always the baking.
Grandma would tell us how before electricity, she used to put her hand in the wood stove to know if it was the right temperature.
How making 8 loaves in the morning was how she started each day.
Standing in her Nike sneakers, I would watch her veiny hands expertly work each loaf and let me know when to add more flour.
“Just keep kneeding.” She would tell me. “You’ll know when it is ready.”
“Like this?” I would say. Pushing my whole body into it, over and over, my forearms burning.
“Yes. Just like that. Now, we let it rise.”
The loaves were put into pans and covered with a musty smelling dish towel.
Then my sister and I were free to go swing on Grandma’s porch, or pick strawberries in her garden, walk down to the creek to look for frogs or twirl in her living room while her fingers bounced around on her accordion.
It’s the rising that is the most important step.
It’s where the magic happens.
If you fail to let it rise long enough, the bread will probably result in a hefty dental bill should you try to bite through it.
“Let it be.” My Grandma would say.
A couple hours would pass and we would marvel at the puffed up loaves that had doubled in size.
She would pop into her oven and shoo us back outside.
When our cheeks were flushed and our hair tangled, the smell of bread baking would find us.
We would migrate back, led by our noses and sit eagerly on the barstools waiting for a slice.
We would eat an entire loaf together.
My Grandma was pure sunshine.
Everyone’s favorite person.
You would feel like she was hugging you, even if she was across the room.
In her 86 years she would climb Mountain peaks, ski backcountry, run marathons, and raise 4 kids.
She was Captain of a dragon boat team, organized a senior walking group that met every morning, rain or shine.
Was a member of the Mazamas.
Met the love of her life in her 80’s, when she joined a bowling league.
She clogged at Nordic festivals, biked from Portland to the coast 4 times, and enjoyed her cold beer at the local pub.
And she was FAMOUS for her homemade bread.
The years went by.
My Dad got a new job and we moved away.
I got older.
I became busy, as 16 year olds do.
Pretty soon I only went to Grandma’s kitchen to bake on holidays, and family trips.
And sometimes I wouldn’t even go then.
I had a tournament I couldn’t miss.
A sleepover that was too important.
Homework, friends, plans.
Such important plans at the time.
I want to go back and sit next to that 16 year old.
I want to tell her to get in her red Pontiac…
Put $20 in the gas tank…
Pop in Alanis Morisette…
And take a drive down to Portland to visit your Grandma.
There is another tournament next weekend.
Another date with a guy that ends up being not worth it.
There’s actually a lot of those coming.
All of the plans can wait.
I miss her.
I want to go back and sit on that stool in her kitchen.
Bake with her.
Ask her what my Dad was like when he was 4.
What her favorite perfume is.
Did she do everything she wanted in life?
I wonder if she knows that I have her rolling pin.
That Dan kept his promise to her.
That we have our own little boys and they gather around our own wooden table now.
I sprinkle the flour and give them their own little loaves to kneed.
They poke their pudgy fingers in the dough, and push it out, roll it around, bring it all together.
I watch them.
“Like this Mommy?”
I understand now.
This is my time I get to shape them.
Get my hands on them.
Kneed all of the love and traditions and life into them.
They want to be with me now.
They want to be with me all of the time.
They are looking to me to show them the world.
Baking in our kitchen, there is nowhere they would rather be.
They will get older.
They will make plans and have their own lives.
And as much as my hands will ache to be holding on to them….
just as I am sure my Grandmothers were for me.
I will have to let them be.
Let them rise.
They will find their way back.
Back to a wooden table.
With flour smudged on their own kids cheeks and an old marble rolling pin.
There will be stories and laughter and of course…….
Fresh baked bread.