Going Broody

In my last post I referenced that poor mama bird nesting in our front yard for a second time. The full summer sun bore down on her for days and days. Her feathers were ruffled as if she hadn’t taken any time for self-care. She looked like she was about ready for a mental break down from the stress of her constant vigil. The babies were born and she is gone now, but I am still left with that image of her in my mind. She was so dedicated to raising those babies right, she even sacrificed her body to the heat and probably her mind too.

I’ve been caring for my nest for almost sixteen years now and there have been multiple seasons where I have felt like that frazzled fowl. This summer was especially hard for reasons I cannot identify with certainty. My age? Lack of proper vitamins? Length of mothering days? Mid life crisis? Settling in to western Idaho life? Just the summer heat that stayed in triple digits for over a month?

Thankfully the aridity has gone for a time and I’ve been “going broody.” I discovered that term on Wikipedia while I tried to find the origins of the term “nesting”. Apparently, nesting is a natural instinct that can be tied to an increase in estradiol when moms about to go into labor increase their activity to get ready for the baby. Animals, bugs and birds all exhibit signs of nesting before babies come along, and when birds do it it’s called, “going broody.”

You might be wondering why I am going broody when I am not even pregnant. The truth is, women continually birth life into this world without actually being physically pregnant. I thought of this while I furiously mopped the floor yesterday. It was overdue for a good cleaning and I questioned why I was doing it at that moment. I had a list a mile long to get ready for school to start and all of a sudden, cleaning the floor became a priority. It reminded me of the times I was close to a baby’s due date and knew time was short.  The life I’m about to give birth to again is papers, books and dirty looks (or something like that). I only have a few short days until we begin to home school and then I won’t have very much extra time for deep cleaning, or the energy to do it.

This will be our eighth, and most likely our last, year to be a home school family. My feelings are decidedly mixed. I am sad and also relieved that the end is near. I am determined to have productive last year and also feel like I have senioritis all over again. I am confident that I’ve done a good job and my kids will be ready for “real” school, but also fear that they are far behind and will never catch up.

Even though experience tells me things will be fine, I've still been apprehensive to go about the business school. It's probably why cleaning has taken on such a priority (the new organization system for mail and schedules sure looks nice though). I went on a retreat for home school moms a couple weeks ago in hopes it would give me a nice shot in the arm. It was all about tea and comparing our spiritual lives to that toasty beverage. At the end, we all had to make a tea wrapper to take home with us. Here's mine:

I named my tea Abili-tea. Underneath it is a verse from scripture that says, "I have strength for everything through him who empowers me."

It seems I also have a cheerleader at home. Clare put this up on the fridge the other day and it makes me smile.

Every year I have plans to make an inspirational post about great ideas I've come up with for home school families. Alas, I have not put one together yet. I will leave you with one idea I had this year. Instead of harassing my kids to read, I thought I'd make reading a goal for myself. I've tried to have us all sit down together to read, but electronic devices usually rue the day. I'm not giving up. Here is my own stack of books I'd like to read through before the school year ends. I wish I had a few more fiction books in there, but I think these have some promise of inspiration.

So, another home school year is brought to life through this woman, this mom, me. I know on some days I will be like a frazzled fowl and sacrifice my mind and body to the task. Other days I'll go broody and decide it's time to dust the baseboards when I should be correcting a math lesson. Days will turn into months and this year will come to an end. With God as my strength, I have the abili-tea, and I'll try to remember to be cool because I've got this. 


One year down...

Pictured above is a Killdeer nest in our front yard, the second of the season. The first time was special as the mama bird sat and sat in the splendid springtime weather. We waited anxiously for the babies to hatch and didn't mind the mama yelling at us each time we went outside or the daddy who feigned a broken wing to lead us away from the precious nest. 

The second nest became a tedious. The weather was much hotter, and so mama bird looked frazzled and worn while she sat and sat and sat. Each time we came outside now, her squawks and screams began to grate on our nerves and the daddy bird was nowhere to be found. 

Sometimes I feel like that mama bird, especially since Adam is gone half the time on his long distant commute, but that's for another post.

And so it was a year ago that we moved into this brand new house. As it settled with pings, pops and bangs as new houses do, our family settled in too. Although I'd prefer an old, uniquely built house in the country, this new house in a subdivision suits us for now (and hopefully for a long time).

Our U-haul was packed to bursting when we pulled up on June 27th, the Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The biggest reason we moved realized itself in the many hands that came to help unload: Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles and cousins. Even the elderly neighbor got into the action; a relationship that has grown over the year. St. Joe, as we call him, and his wife, Midge, are especially fond of Adam and come around quite frequently when he is home. 

One of the first things I wanted after moving in was a large welcome sign. I enlisted a lady from the Saturday Market to make one for me (which saved me some cash since Etsy prices were a little steep).

The gray flooring is interesting, but not my favorite. I do like this rounded doorway that leads to the girls' bedrooms and bathroom.

It was hard to pick window coverings and I had to do it quickly. I like the earthy look of these bamboo shades, but am on the lookout for something a little more sophisticated. The open floor plan is nice when it's just the fam, but any time we have people over it is very loud and there is nowhere to escape. The patio door is angled just to the left of the dining room. It is so much better than a sliding glass door off the dining room like many houses are built. We spend a lot of time on the patio.

This is Kylo Ren practicing his handwriting on our granite topped island. Love. I also love the sliding barn door that closes off the den which now functions as a place to pile toys and home school books. It's pretty much a disaster all the time, so that door is a sanity saver.

Here is a lovely picture of my mom, Darlene (left) and Adam's mom, Patty (right). They sit in the same spot as Kylo Ren and you can see what I see anytime I'm in the kitchen, except instead of our beautiful mamas and tidy living room, I usually see kids flopped on the sofas and toys strewn around the room. The gray entertainment center was a major purchase since that wall really needed something to anchor it down. Some day we plan to get a fireplace and move the entertainment center to the den. 

I thought I'd throw in this picture of pictures (now on the wall). This is down the hallway to the laundry room and my bedroom. I love to come out of my room and see my babies all at about eight months.

This is a little section of our little patio and Eli looking awesome. The yard is not very large, but plenty big enough for us. The fence is interesting since it us up a little hill and once you climb up to it, it only comes up to my chest. From the lower part of the yard or from the house all you can see is this fence.

This is what we see beyond the fence. It's a great view for tall people. Adam's tall friend came for a visit and kept mentioning our awesome view. If only I were a foot taller I could see it too. Right now that field is full of blooming onions probably to be used for seed. I love to climb up the short hill at sunset to look at the view, however the view of the sky can be readily seen from our dining and living room windows. The sunsets are amazing and at night we have a clear view of the stars. Adam and I go out on the patio most nights and enjoy the warm evenings, but we do have to chase off the mosquitoes. 

All in all, it's been a great place to live and I plan to stay a good, long time. Maybe you'd like to come visit? We'd love to have you. 


Meandering Mamas

A few evenings ago I met my new friend, Katie, for a walk. It was her idea and I assumed since I'm older than forty and she is not, I'd be panting at her side in a attempt to keep up. She sauntered up in flip flops and her messenger bag saddled to her side. As she cooly walked in her casual attire I suddenly felt self conscious in my jogging shoes, running shorts and sweat band around my head.

OK, so I didn't come dressed for a 5K, but I was wearing my jogging shoes and the shirt I had chosen had stains and little holes. I briefly looked down at my clothing choice and wondered, as I do pretty much any time I go in public, why did I choose to wear this? The feeling of awkwardness in my own clothing choices is similar to the feelings I had in the first few years of being a mom. Thoughts of those years have been floating through my mind as I have struck up a friendship with Katie. She is a young mother of five little kids under the age of seven. My mom soup is beginning to simmer, while she is still figuring out what veggies to add to the broth (it's kind of ironic that I just used soup as an analogy when I almost never make soup or anything that has to simmer).

As we walked, and were continually distracted by the delicate scent of lilacs in full bloom, some of our conversation revolved around Jennifer Fulwiler's new book (see last post). I was, and still am, ruminating over her story and how it applies it to the real experiences of real moms in the real world. As Katie and I talked about some practical steps to apply some of Fulwiler's wisdom to our lives, her rosy cheeks and fresh smile betrayed her young age. Although Fulwiler's book is inspiring and I highly recommend it, I get a little uncomfortable when I think about young moms such as my ambling friend who walked beside me.

When I was in the throws of young motherhood, I began to long for something more. The whole mom at home thing weighed me down. In an attempt to settle my restless soul, and frankly my boredom, I joined a book club, arranged hikes with friends and had dinner parties. These were things I had enjoyed before kids and thought they would help me feel more alive and give me the energy I needed to be this mom I had become. Soon, my schedule was loaded and I was more frazzled and unhappy than ever. Keeping up relationships, which I so desperately needed, exhausted me. The book club conversations and reading the books sent my thoughts down paths that only meandered out into nothing and left my intellect frustrated instead of inspired. To plan a hike or party around my husband's work schedule and the fear of wearing him out became too difficult and time consuming . I began to fall apart.

At this point my husband pointed out that maybe I ought to stay home more and be content with less activity outside the house. Although I let out an annoyed sigh and turned my back to him, I knew he may be right. That's when I began to say no to everything and burrowed in as a mom at home. Staying home, coupled with more conversations with God (since it's hard to have a deep conversation with a four-year-old), were what finally gave me some of the peace and joy I had longed for. I set aside a lot of my passions, desires and dreams at that point, but it was good choice for me because I learned to have the confidence I needed to be comfortable as a mother, even imperfectly. Even though my mothering was like my T-shirt and may have some little stains and holes, I was no longer as concerned with the imperfection or what I lacked.

I glanced sideways at Katie once more. A little dog barked from behind a fence and a middle aged man adjusted his sprinkler. I am in a different place in my life as a mother than she is. My kids can feed and dress themselves or watch after the one who can't. She is still in the chaos of little babies and settling into her new identity. I've gotten more comfortable in this role and, with older kids, have a lot more breathing room. Finally I am ready to take up some of  my passions again, but now I worry about moms like Katie. Moms who, inspired by books like Fulwiler's or seeking happiness and peace, may try to run after their passions and dreams only to find themselves frustrated like I did.

There is really nothing I can do to help these moms avoid frustration and even depression or despondency (except maybe write and talk about it). In the end, each mother must find her own sweet spot. Hopefully others can find it more quickly than I did, but maybe we all meander on this journey of motherhood. Sometimes we end up on dead end roads and have to turn around. Maybe balance can be achieved more easily when we are sensitive and present enough to see and smell the lilacs. Every step and misstep will be sweeter and will eventually get us to our goal.


To Dream in Color

I'm probably going about this the wrong way. I've had such a desire to write lately, spurred on by Jennifer Fulwiler's latest book, One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both, that I have spent way too much time in front of my computer trying to catch up on lost time. The laundry has piled up, the floor needs to be swept, I've barely gotten food on the table and I think my kids may not remember what a vegetable is since even I only have a vague sense that they still exist. So, it's time. It's time for me to write on this silly blog again. I say silly because it really needs to be updated.

Jen's book is not out until May 1st, but I got a copy because she's my BFF, and also pre-ordered from Barnes and Noble and they sent copies out early (I'm pretty sure Jen doesn't know she's my BFF). It basically told the story of her passion for writing and how she managed to publish a book in the midst of a very busy family life. Although she is Catholic and has a pretty dramatic book about her conversion story that I also loved to read, this book doesn't focus so much on faith as it does on inspiring women (moms) to follow their passions.

I see other moms doing this, following their dreams, and always wonder how they do it. This book helped me to see that to follow my passions, I must be intentional, but also flexible. Family, of course, ought to come first, but that looks different in each family. She also recommends that we moms bring our families into our passions, that the family culture should be one of support. She explains that each person should feel free to pursue what makes them come alive and be a support for one another so all can flourish.

Lately, I would not describe myself as flourishing. My color is more gray than red hot (only one shade of gray in case you wondered). I realize now that I have pushed aside a lot of my personal passions, in order to save up enough energy to keep my family afloat. That strategy has backfired. I think Jen may have a point. In order for me to be the mom I need to be with energy and life, I need to do what I do best. I need to use my gifts. I need to search after my dreams. Then my gray life may have some more color and my family will probably happier for it.