What Shifted...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A few posts ago, I waxed bloggy and talked about the corner I've turned recently. How for the first time since Quinn was born, I am feeling some peace and balance. I never managed to come back and sit long enough to explain my perception of why things have shifted. And that's okay. Part of the acceptance of my life as it is. Some things take ages to get done. Other things come up and get accomplished with surprising immediacy. It's just an ebb and flow, and I'm riding the wave. 

But tonight. Tonight I have a little time. And I'd love to talk just a bit more about where I am at these days. 

It began the day Noah went off to kindergarten. 

Prior to his first day, we'd been in a whirlwind summer. There was the packing up of Kate's house. A LOT of packing, in between the parenting and daily life. Then a whirlwind week-long roadtrip, sans Joe, to Arizona. With all three kids and my parents. And Quinn cried a fair amount of the drive. And I felt like a crazy woman for attempting it. (But also strangely empowered every day I managed to survive it.) And as soon as we returned from that madness, we were suddenly in the new place. First night back from AZ was our first night in the new home. So then there was the unpacking. The sorting and the sweating and the settling in. And not a week after that first day home, I was driving Noah to a summer camp at his beloved preschool. Thirty minutes one-way back into the city so he could get one last hurrah at that lovely lovely school. Packing up the kids and messing with Quinn's morning naps and begging friends to host the babies and I during Noah's camp sessions so we weren't driving 30 mins-30mins-30mins-30-mins every day for two weeks. 

So July was insane. 

And somewhere in my brain, I'd kind of figured that getting though July, we'd have all of August to slow down and experience a bit of lazy summer with our new big yard and nowhere to be.... And I yearned for it. 

But then I looked up Noah's new school district, and right there, on the calendar: AUGUST 13. First day of school. Not even two weeks of "lazy summer" before school would be upon us. And those two weeks were full of photography sessions for me, playdates for the kids, a couple of birthday parties... and in between all of that, Joe and I trying to squeeze in a little summer for our kids somewhere. So much for "lazy". 

Which brings me to Noah's first day of school. 

For so many mamas, there is a sadness about sending their little one to kindergarten. A reluctance. I confess I did not feel that. Not leading up to it, and not that day. Nor did I feel EAGER-- I wasn't necessarily excited to get him on the bus and out of my daily rounds. But I was prepared, and ready. 

For as many years as I can remember, it hasn't felt like Noah turned his next age on his actual birthday---like how today he is 13 days away from becoming six. It's seemed every year that he turns his new age sometime at the end of summer. He just ACTS older as autumn approaches. So when the actual age change happens, I've already felt it for months. I've had time to get used to it. This year, Noah has "been six" for months already. And because of this, it's felt like he's been ready for kindergarten for ages. I love it. And I was thoroughly excited for him to get started. The only tears I shed that first day were ones of nostalgia and excitement--- as I walked him through actual elementary school hallways, I felt butterflies on his behalf that he was getting to begin this epic and life-changing era of life. The school years. I could not wait for him to love it as I did. 

And so on that first day, I did take him myself, Lucy and Quinn in tow. We walked him in and lingered a bit longer than we needed to, then slowly walked back to our car less one kid... Feeling a little imbalanced, I guess. But excited for him. 

And I let him ride his bus home. 

Between dropping him off and him coming home, I took Lucy and Quinn to the park. I figured we were already dressed for the day. Why not? And then I brought my babies back to the house and we puttered about. I put Quinn down for his morning nap. Lucy and I played a bit. I tidied a bit. Noah was due home at 11:30am and Quinn's naps typically went til 10:30 or 11, so we were homebound. And we waited eagerly for Noah's bus, to see how his first day had gone. 

That day, the bus came and Lucy sat with me to wait. Noah came off of that bus and ran to us with the biggest smile on his face. And we smiled, and we went inside to hear his tales and keep each other company while I made lunch for us all. 

Lunch, then a bit of play, then the sacred stretch of quiet time for all, and by the time quiet time ended, it was time for Joe to be home and the evening was upon us. 

So on that first day, the shift occurred. Perhaps you missed it as you read along. I did, too. It wasn't til the SECOND day of school that it started to become apparent to me. On the second day, I didn't take Noah to school. He rode the bus. Then rode it home. He was gone from 7:40am-11:30am. In that time, there wasn't really time for the littler kids and I to run errands or go play or visit a friend. Quinn had a morning nap to take, and Noah's day ended too soon to run out after Quinn's nap. Essentially, we were forced to stay home. 

And there it was. 

Forced to stay at home, the rhythm of our day immediately and palpably slowed down. I fed Lucy and Quinn breakfast after Noah was gone. Then we played a bit. Then I put Quinn down. Then Lucy and I puttered around the back yard and I got some long-overdue yardwork done. She explored. I took iPhone photos of her exploring. We drifted back indoors. I put on some Pandora music. We waited for Quinn to wake and/or Noah's bus to come home. Whichever came first. Lucy asked for a snack. We shared crackers and cheese. 

And when Quinn woke, we sat on the front stoop to watch for the bus. The rest of the day played out like the day before. I was starting to see: our new life was going to be home-bound like it hadn't been in a very long time. Maybe ever. 

The next day, the typical me rose up to rebel, and I bundled Lucy and Quinn into the car to run some errands as soon as Noah headed to school. I had one hour before Quinn's nap, and I could get a lot done. Post office, grocery store, bank. Check check check. Bustle bustle bustle. 

It ended up being a frazzled day. The tone was set. 

A ha. 

So the next day, I went back to the slowness of being home-bound. Perhaps first-thing-in-the-morning errands weren't worth the tradeoff in sanity. And yes-- there it was again.... peace. Staying home, slowing down= peace. Time with just Lucy while Quinn napped. Time to putter and tidy the house and greet the day a bit at a time... Time to gather my energy to welcome Noah's vibrant chattiness home at 11:30. Time to care for the baby and care for myself and just BE. 

And so. Since that first week of school, I've nudged the boundaries of this new discovery. And it seems, without fail, when I try to GO GO GO too SOON SOON SOON or too much, Crazy Emily comes back. For now, this slowness in the morning is healing me. And when I try to ignore that need, or life forces me to hustle and rush on a rare day here and there, I can tangibly see the difference in all of our moods. So as soon as I can, I try to come back to slowness. To rein in my natural tendency to "stay busy" and FILL the days, with good, with mundane, with THINGS. Katrina Kenison, in Mitten Strings For God, confesses about her own accidental addiction to busy-ness, "If I pause enough to listen to my own inner voice, rather than heeding some external call to go, see, and do, I make better choices for us all." She talks about what Thoreau calls "a broad margin", and I've been pondering that a lot in light of my own revelation that slowness in the morning helps set the tone for my whole day. (For my life, actually.) I have been given, through the grace of Noah's school and the fact that he gets a school bus ride instead of needing me to take him, a broad margin to my morning. And it has made all the difference. It helps me realize that if I can be mindful of ALL the margins--- the one before a meal, and then after.... the one before bedtime... the margin of time before we have to go to church, the margin of time between activities.... If I can be mindful of these margins, and possibly widen them a bit, there will be less frenzy. Less frazzle. More peace. More mindful attentiveness. 

I don't pretend I will get to maintain this pace for always. I'm already naturally inclined to being busy and getting out and DOING. Someday soon Quinn will drop his morning nap and I'll be presented with the temptation of a new window of time I can fill outside my home. And Lucy will begin preschool someday and I'll be back to chauffeuring kids multiple times a week. And there will be more obligations to my schedule. This season will end. 

But until then, I've been given this accidental gift--- this SHIFT in my life rhythm--- and I am reveling in it. I love it. I love my days here at home, slow, steady, repetitive.... And I like to think these days are helping me grow strong in the art of minding my margins. So that when life's demands begin crowding back in, I will be better at handling them. Better at carving out margins even in the midst of the frenzy. I might get better at not adding to the frenzy with my own ideas of what should be getting done.

Until then. Until then, I will cherish the homey pleasures of kids playing and creating around me, of gently caring for my new home... of puttering and making bread and exploring our yard and being present with each other and feeling the peace that only being home can provide. I will relish these wide margins and be grateful that I've reached this place and been allowed to linger for a time.

{Photos: The first image of this post captured one of my utter favorite moments ever. A Wednesday evening, usually a stressful time because Joe works late. Instead, I put on music, the two littles played contentedly near me as I made dinner, and Noah kept me company and made his own "stew" as I cooked. A room full of peace as the sun set into the room. Heaven.
The collage of iPhone images at the end represent homebound happiness moments from August until now... Heaven.}


  1. I am so glad your shift arrived. Standing out on a playground this morning w 80 kindergarteners as they played in our first real snow of the season, I yearned for your shift.

  2. I loved reading about your shift. My own question to myself each morning, and often throughout the day is, "Who is driving the car?" This helps me clue into my "natural rhythm" of things or to notice if I am "white-knuckling" my way through life. A shift of my own perhaps?

  3. Such truth behind your shift!! Our best days are the ones where my two love bugs and I are home ... playing, reading, homeschooling, baking bread, cleaning ... it doesn't so much matter if we are snowed in or in the garden ... what matters is when we are AT HOME!! You are at a good place in your life to see this freedom and not fight it! Way to go Emily.

    ps. I came across your blog when I was looking for a tutorial on making t-shirt flowers ... and have loved "getting to know you" as a fellow Christian mom. Thank you! Check out our family at

  4. well said, little one. The daughter teachers the mother

  5. I absolutely LOVE the new family picture on your blog!!! Great addition!!!

  6. Oh, I loved this post! So much of it rings true in my life as well. When I accept the "margins" of my life and not fight them, I have more peace, inside and out. I will be rereading this post many times as a reminder as we go into the crazy holiday season. I tend to overbook, overplan and overdo; by Christmas I am tired, cranky and have little Christmas spirit. Thank you for writing such a beautiful post!


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