Four Yahoos

Monday, August 13, 2018

On the eve of the kids' first day back to school, this year featuring THREE of the four getting on that school bus, I wanted to say a few things. 
1. While I am READY and thrilled to send Noah, Lucy and Quinn on their way, and have fantasized frequently about what life might look like with just me and the Larkin-girl toodling around town all day every day, I'm grateful for summer break and for all the time we've had together. 

2. Even when that time together made the house kind of a mess. 

3. And kind of loud. 

4. And a little challenging.

5. Like, not easy to run errands with all four all the time. 

6. Still, these kiddos are pretty neat humans, and I sure love them. Love being with them. Love seeing them grow, watching their minds work, seeing what tickles their funny bones. 

7. So on the eve of the kids' first day back to school, (alternate name: the eve of the Era of Larkin and Mom Painting the Town) I just wanted to post a handful of photos of them in their natural summer environment, eating a late breakfast of cold cereal, being goofy/cute/silly/marvelous. We won't get this season back, and next year they'll all be even older and even more themselves... so this is for the NOW. Here's to loving it just as it is. 

Good luck tomorrow, my yahoos.

Only Love Today: Freewriting About the NOW

Thursday, August 9, 2018

At the beginning of this year, I landed on the idea that, instead of a full year's resolution, I would instead try for a monthly "focus". For someone as wishy-washy as me, it felt more likely to succeed. I always have grand intentions, but, like a lot of folks, after the initial fervor it's easy to let the intentions drift away. Too, what may be something I really NEED at one point of the year might not be at ALL what I need at another point of that same year. Choosing something monthly allowed me to sit in a quiet place at the start of each month and really ponder my wants and needs for that exact moment. Choosing the focus, I could then lean into that one area above others for those weeks when the resolution is still fresh. And then, by the time it was fading, it would be time for another sit-down-and-ponder and a fresh focus. 

It's been really lovely. Truly a marvelous spin on New Years' Resolutions. And hey-- some months, nothing has felt like the right fit, and that's important for me to listen to as well. One month, over a week into the month, I realized that what I felt, every time I tried to come up with a focus, was this resistant feeling, and then the phrase "let it go". Like, "Okay, self-- don't fight for it so hard. If it's not apparent, that's okay. Let it go." And so that became my focus for the month. Just letting it go. Funny enough, the very next month was even more challenging, and I never did pick a focus (as you can see in the above photo). And that is okay too. When the project becomes a burden, it no longer serves its purpose. So having a month "off" was okay, too. 

But then August rolled around. And with it, a lot of feelings. Relief that it was a new month, a new chance to try... a building sense of being DONE with the summer mess and constantness of keeping four kids happy and healthy at home day in and day out. Less IRRITABLE than July, but definitely more WEARY overall. An itch for order again. For routine. A flutter of eagerness to have some space, time and solitude. Not because I don't love my kids or want to be around them-- but because I think for all the space and time we've had this summer, they also thrive in the drive and push and routine of the school year... and I think we remember to cherish our togetherness more when we don't have it all the time. 

I found myself tensing up at all the "buildup" of summer break-- both physical and intangible. A buildup of laundry. A buildup of energy unused because of it being too hot to be outside much. A buildup of STUFF that the kids would bring down from their room everyday, then forget to bring back up at the end of the day. A buildup of "to dos" on my end because of lack of solo-time and lack of energy, both being expended in summer parenting instead. A buildup of anxious "wishing" on my end-- wishing for things to be different, tidier, quieter, easier, more fun and less bicker-y. 

With all of this piling up, I found myself not in the moment AT ALL-- constantly annoyed at something or other because it had been this way TOO LONG. Time for CHANGE! New school year COMING, finally!! I was spending all my time waiting for something better and being annoyed that it wasn't better YET. 

So I stood in the middle of my kitchen one afternoon. I glared at my counter and all the JUNK everyone had contributed to its chaos. I glared at the recycling that my husband never seemed to see and empty. I glared at the trail of things Larkin had taken out of my desk drawer AGAIN and left scattered everywhere. I glared at the scummy spots on the floor. And I contemplated my focus for the month. Sharply, with annoyance, I considered doing a repeat of "Order". Or "Re-center". Hammering my heart and my life back into some kind of controlled schedule. Whipping things back into shape.

And it felt.... just as yucky as the mess. 

So I paused and tried to breathe a little. And soften. I tried to remind myself what was good about NOW. That soon I'd be sending three of my four off to school on the bus every day, which, for the moment, sounded like HEAVEN, but would also, ultimately, be bittersweet. I tried to remind myself that soon enough, SO SOON, I'd have so much more space for "order" and "re-centering". Soon it would be just me and the little yahoo (still making desk messes) and some flexibility and freedom in my days. Soon it would even be MY FAVORITE SEASON and we could all get back outside again. All of this-- so good, coming so SOON. 

But right now? Despite the mess and the noise, there was good in the NOW. We have all been luxuriously sleeping in every morning. Oh my gosh, it's glorious. We've all had slow, lovely, sun-filled mornings starting our days at our own paces. When I get Larkin out of bed, there is no hustle needed, and lots of time for games and songs as I get her changed and dressed. My kids have long ago settled into the rule of "no TV til afternoon" and it's been deeply satisfying for me to watch them disperse after breakfast to find ways to amuse themselves. And every day, no matter what our adventures or non-adventures of the morning have been, we have had a set Quiet Time while Larkin naps, and everyone has thrived with that hour of peaceful stillness all summer long. Despite the mess and the noise of having all four around me and my home all day, all summer, we've had a lovely "un-routine" and we've done okay inside it. Better than okay. 

And it's nearly over until next summer. 

So instead of wishing it away, and trying to wrangle life into order right now, maybe it was time to lean into it. Maybe even LOVE it. And the title of one of my current favorite books, a parenting/advice book by the Hands-Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford, came to mind: Only Love Today. Only love today. You can read those three words a few different ways, and all of them fit what I needed for August. 

Only love today. 

Stafford writes in her intro, 
"Only love today, I silently repeated until the noise in my head quieted and I could be right where I needed to be-- in this moment.
... An unexpected blanket of peace settled over me, offering a crystal-clear perspective:
Those messy piles on the kitchen counter don't matter.
Those snug-fitting pants strewn on the floor of my closet don't either. 
That opportunity I missed fifteen years ago and still think about today will need to go now. 
That traffic I'll face taking Natalie to swim team practice won't faze me. ...
Even the nonstop rain sounds quite soothing as it beats down on the roof of my house for the ninth straight day.

In that forty-five-second pause to check the status of my heart, I received the ultimate reprieve: the distractions fell away... the pressure subsided... the worries dissipated... the weight lifted. What mattered most came into clear focus."

Only love today. Not annoyance at what ISN'T. Only love. Not wishing the days away until BETTER days come. Only love TODAY. Today. Love today. 

And so. As I have found myself tightening back up through the first week of August, hating the countertop, the laundry, the bickering, the feeling like I'm doing all the work... I have been able to stop, step back, and say to myself, "Love today." And then look around for something, anything, in the moment that I can appreciate or be grateful for. And it gets me back into the present and helps me see the good above the annoying. 

I have been able to walk past the messes that are making me lose my mind and whisper to myself, "That WILL get done. Be at peace. More time is coming. Until the right time opens up for it, though, let it go and only love today." The constant pile of papers and art messes on the dining room table (pictured above)?  It's okay. It'll get done eventually. But Larkin in her swimsuit atop her clothing, AGAIN? That's more fun to look at. The kids getting along during lunch? I will spend my energy looking at that and loving that, instead of glaring at the paper pile. 

The massive stack of boxes and baskets in my bedroom, filled with old baby clothes that need to be sorted, photographed and put for sale online (pictured below)? It's OKAY. It'll keep for another few months if it has to. I will look away from that and notice instead how sweetly Lucy and Quinn are playing together again this Quiet Time-- as they've done nearly every single Quiet Time this summer, devising elaborate Imagination Games together, without my help, like I've dreamed for my kids to do since before I had any. 

Only love today. There is a very dominant part of my nature that wants to wrangle control over my universe so I can step back and nod in satisfaction at how it all makes sense. But that is not how life works, and more often than not, very little is really in my control. Especially when it comes to the four little humans I'm raising here. Instead of finding reasons to be annoyed all day long, I choose love. I'm not great at it still-- I think it is my life's work to keep softening and seeing and letting go and learning to laugh at myself-- but I'm practicing it as often as I can remember to. I choose love. 

Only love. Today. 


(Photo details:
1. my "year at a glance" bullet journal spread, featuring this month's focus, "Love Today"
2. & 3. Blasted counters. I've given up. Groceries will get put away eventually. And the clutter counter next to it? I.... don't know. I give up. Maybe in September I'll put that stuff away and it'll be clear for three days. Until the buildup begins again. 
4. Laundry is now permanently residing behind our couch. But hey, it's all clean!
5. I'm really really done with providing lunch for four every single day.  McDonalds has been supplementing a LOT. I'm not going to apologize. At least the Happy Meals have apples in them. 
6. I think Fiona had just nibbled his forehead here. Not sure how that's done, but it's what Quinn claims happened. 
7. A rare, lovely moment where Noah decided on his own to play the cello and everyone came to hang out while he did. 
8. In a stroke of luck and brilliance, I grabbed a "shrinky dink" kit from Five Below last week and it has been a hit. Especially the watching of the shrinking. Also, we're nearing a bum-crack emergency here, obviously. Maybe I should sort out the too-small shirts from their drawers. NEXT MONTH. Only love today. 
9. Speaking of today, Elise is in town TODAY today. Like, THIS ACTUAL DAY! How cute is this Larkin/Aunt Elise selfie?
10. Lucy and Quinn during today's quiet time, totally immersed in their Happy Meal toys (for once) and playing so well together.
11. If we're gonna binge on cartoons, at least we're doing it together, snuggled and cozy.)
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