This view from a Charlottesville winery was one of many gifts I received this weekend. Siblings spent time together in Richmond, leaving the house empty and quiet.
Steve and I took advantage of the kid and car exchange to drive around looking at some of his Charlottesville job sites and ended up here.
This was the beginning of a lovely, slow weekend. After stocking up at Trader Joe’s and Martins for food necessities, we returned home to hang out and chill. We ate, drank, and relaxed. We watched some Netflix and took naps.
We grilled steak and roasted asparagus.
Sunday morning we woke slowly and arrived at church in time for me to hang out with my toddler nursery buddies during the Sunday school hour. Church followed and then more naps, some reading, art journaling, and a long walk.
We went to dinner downtown with friends. We made tea and went to bed early to start the week well-rested. I woke this morning to a silent house.
After feeding the animals and walking the dog, I took my time getting ready for the day before driving to Charlottesville to exchange cars again.
My ducks are all back in the nest. It was a nice break for us all to have the gift of space from each other, but it is so good to have them home.
Sitting on the floor of my daughter’s vacation room, I look through the glass door up at the nest. It is tucked into the balcony rafters. Mama bird has just returned to her babies.
I feel a kinship with mama bird, seeing as I am here this week with my three youngest chickadees. It’s a different vacation dynamic than years gone by.
The last time we were in this space, our unit was divided into a boys’ side and a girls’ side. There were eight of us. Someone got sick.
This year we are four females until Papa bird joins us. Each has her own space. Mine is on a pull-out sofa. Some years that is how it goes. I wanted my older girls to have their own rooms.
It’s kind to have a getaway gifted by the in-laws in the midst of this transitional summer. The change of scenery is doing us good, even if it’s only a different space to eat and sleep and watch Cartoon Network.
For me it’s also doing yoga on my travel mat, reading books, and journaling. It’s laughing with the girls at episodes of Teen Titans and Gumball and crying alone during Inside Out and A Wrinkle in Time.
It’s going for walks in the heat and playing miniature golf on a course where the young man behind the counter taking our money recognizes us from years ago when he was younger and his family came to our house for dinner that time.
We are not far.
Just like that mama bird who swoops down and away whenever I try to sneak out onto the balcony for a closer look, I swoop out and away to my own balcony to read or write. I swoop out for walks.
I always return, just like her.
Unlike her, my babies are old enough to swoop out on their own, as well. Little Mae took her own walk last evening. My teenage daughter steps out regularly for moments of self-care.
Teen sons are each off on their own adventure this month, instead of on vacation with the family. That is how seasons shift and change.
Maybe that is what continues to draw me to the floor of this room looking out of the window and up at a bird nest. Grounding. Remembering all of my birds when they were contained.
I always ask first.
May I go look at the bird?
Usually the answer is affirmative, unless I have been particularly annoying or grievous. Then I just wait a bit and ask again.
Mama has hopped out of the nest and is perched on the ledge. Her eyes peer around, scoping out the territory. I refrain from opening the door or making a sudden movement.
Instead I sit and bless her. I listen to her song through the window and marvel at her role in the world. She is enough just being a bird.
She does not have to compete with or compare herself to other birds. She is enough moving back and forth from her own nest minding her own business.
It’s July, and I am making space for a deep breath or several. This month is the one that is all summer, no days of school for the kids. It is time to rest and recharge and resist the urge to structure the unstructurable. I realize that is not even a word, but it gives voice to the impossible I often try to achieve.
Kindness says, Let it go.
July looks different for us this year. Beginning with a local vacation and ending with an out-of-state bridal shower, much is sandwiched in between. The teenagers are each traveling to various destinations on their own, leaving the family dynamic in constant flux. We will not be reunited under the same roof until August.
Resting and recharging is a desire that feels uncertain. I plan to journal and read through a small stack of books this week. I hope to be intentional with my girls in a space where we can be both together and separate. I will exhale.
July is not a month to make big proclamations and plans. It is a month to savor space. With a tendency to just push right through things, my challenge is to remain present to the moments.
I don’t want to fight the flux but embrace it. I know that I can’t control it. Here’s to being in it along for the ride and for coming out on the other side.
On April 4, 2013, I opened a post on my private blog titled The Tearing Down. These words flew from my fingertips, Kieran began tearing out the faux paneling f.
I had great intentions and high hopes of writing an insightful piece full of analogies and wisdom related to the remodel of the worst room in the house. We were finally beginning it. Kieran was a freshman in high school.
It’s been over five years.
Kieran no longer lives in the house, though he was able to live in his (almost) finished room last year after returning from his post-high-school travels. The paint was never quite right, the blinds were never installed, and the door had to be held shut on the inside with a paint can.
I don’t mind. I don’t want to deal with painting. I have tapestries to hang over the windows. It’s easier for Zephyr to get in and out when the door doesn’t latch.
Okay, maybe he didn’t say the last thing, but he was certainly gracious in all that was unfinished. I was glad for him to inhabit the space that we had long promised.
We moved into this big old house 14 years ago. It needed a lot of work. Electrical updates, waterproofing the cellar, the kind of work that is not pretty but necessary. We also had five kids at the time.
The house had lots of rooms that could be configured in different ways. We have configured and plugged along working on projects as we could. Three sisters joined the five that moved in originally. There were lots of cribs and toddler beds.
The older siblings can tell tales of five of them in a room as we worked to remodel other spaces. The room they were in was the one we just finished. The worst room in the house. Gradually, we moved them out into their own rooms, starting with the firstborn and working our way down.
There was always a lot of shifting.
This week I worked to do the final room move-about. Kirk moved into Kieran’s old room after we fixed the paint, installed blinds, and fixed the door latch.
Child seven moved out of the Harry Potter room at the top of the stairs and into Kirk’s old room. Shhh. She doesn’t know it, yet, since she has been away at camp all week. Don’t tell!
Coco and Mae kept their rooms, making the moving around a bit more bearable. Coco’s birds now inhabit the room at the top of the stairs. She is also at camp, so that part is a surprise, as well. We talked about it as a possibility but did not set a time.
Of course this puts me in a sentimental place, as it is a reminder of another season coming and going and of the change that is constant. We now have each of the remaining four in their own space, the space I knew one day would come.
This was the view across the room from me this morning as I sat in an oversized chair in my Airbnb drinking coffee and reading. Today is the last day of Certificate 2 training. How do I hold that?
Monday evening a precious friend stopped by the house to affix an EzPass to my windshield and capture the tolls for my trip. She also gave me a gift bag care package. Peeking in I saw snacks and a stuffed owl.
I didn’t see the cards tucked in between everything, one for each day, with instructions about when to open them. Each unique card held words of blessing and encouragement specific to the day.
This is a part of her glory. She is a writer. I was the recipient of her lavish gift of words. I assembled the cards on the tabletop under the staircase to remind me of truth and give me courage to step into hard places.
Some cards contained lunch money. Others a blessing. Each met me in exactly the right space for what the day held and what my heart needed.
I am preparing for the last session. Lunch is with myself today in solitude, pondering all that these days have held and preparing to end well. What do I hold? What do I toss?
It is my second attempt at writing this post. I wrote a first one while sitting at one of the wooden chairs that flank the table. I hit publish and rushed out the door. It vanished.
I sat all morning holding my disappointment while trying to release demand as to why my post vanished and where it went. I needed to remain present to all that was happening in morning session and group.
I will hit publish again for a second time on these new words for my morning thought. Then I will brave the rain and return to my table and receive what the afternoon holds.
I arrived at my friend’s house exhausted from a seven hour drive. What feels different from the last trip is the intensity of emotional work in addition to the changes and transitions going on at home.
Mid-winter is also not an active time of year. That first trip was an adventure and foray into the unknown. Now I know a little more about what I am showing up for. It is also spring, a beautiful, yet busy, time of year.
I remember when I was a young girl my Aunt Marilyn came to visit us on Nicholson St. in Maryland. She drove down from Michigan. I’m sure I spent the day eagerly anticipating her arrival and all the fun we would have together.
When she finally reached us, her first words were, What a drive. I need a nap. She lay down on the couch for a rest as we waited nearby for any indication that nap time was over and she was rested. (Meaning, any sort of movement whatever)
That is how I felt when I arrived. I set a timer and went to my room for a rest. After 30 minutes of quiet I was ready for a walk. We walked to get ice cream.
It felt good to move after a day in the car, and the company was wonderful. We walked and talked and chose our ice cream.
When I saw Tin Roof Sundae was an option, I knew I had found my choice. There are several stories there about me and ice cream sundaes and where Tin Roof Sundae ice cream enters my story. I also understand better why Peanut Buster Parfaits are my Dairy Queen weakness.
Now it’s time to rest and write and read and talk and transition into what is coming. I am so grateful for a kind space and for kind people who care for my heart and soul so well.
To all of you who care for, have cared for, are caring for me on this journey, know that I am so grateful and hold you close at heart.
It is mid-week. Hump Day. In navigating my new normal there is still much I have to learn about pacing myself and having realistic expectations for what I can accomplish and what constitutes enough. Our themes follow us no matter where we go. Mine are here in my quiet house with me this morning.
It was a kind gift to wake with my alarm and read my Bible before starting the day. That led to a timely shower and the surprise of breakfast made for me instead of the reverse. Fed, clean, and clothed, I was able to take on the rest of the kitchen routine and pack lunches without being thrown by the unexpected surprises that usually occur between 7:00-7:20am.
Drop-off was smooth-sailing, and the dog-walk uneventful. The brilliant morning sunshine was a welcome lift to my sagging spirits. I recognized the kindness of a canceled plan which opened space for me to tackle an overdue task that has been hanging over my head. It moved to the top of today’s list.
Finishing my evolving morning ritual, I gathered supplies to the table to begin working on an art journaling project. It was fun to plan out and gather the words and images to use. I opened a new package of glue sticks and dug some scissors out of the drawer. Immediately I realized the blades were sticky and squeaky, but I decided to make do rather than extract myself from the table to my bedroom for the good scissors.
The ambient sound of scrapbooking!
A voice from the living-room couch piped up after I had been working for awhile. My son was seizing a few moments of his morning off to read a book he had received for his birthday. The silence of his reading was punctuated by the sounds of my tearing and cutting and gluing.
I even tried not to cut too loudly with these awful scissors!
I laughed. We both have sensitivity to certain sounds and pitches and noises. This caused more laughter and an invitation from him to take a break and watch an episode together in the living room. I accepted and hunkered down on the loveseat. Dewey trotted over and jumped right up, settling onto me for a nap.
Twenty minutes later, I looked at us and laughed, christening the day Lump Day, as we were lumping on couches and not accomplishing much. Then it was time to get moving. He has to work. I have to clean up the art journal mess and sort the rest of my time before picking up kids from school.
I might just keep lumping.
Shhh! Don’t tell.
The original post was edited to include this video shared with me by my baby sis who now mothers her babies every day and knows about songs like this!
Irritation mounts as I survey the kitchen. I was the one who asked that a milkshake be made after school. But this? Really?
It looks as if ice cream and milk were slopped into the blender and then the blender was haphazardly turned on with the top off. Yes, that must be what happened. There is a glob of melted ice cream on the floor and a puddle of it on the counter. It is hardening into a solid, sticky mess.
Clearly, someone is in the wrong, and it is not me. I am fuming inside, every ounce of irritation seeping through my pores. It feels as if my skin is on inside out. I am trying to find a way to express frustration appropriately which only has me feeling more inappropriate.
A sibling stands nearby, emptying the trash. A blanket statement is made about a family rule. The undertone is why are you surprised by this? It’s how it is. This incites me more. Really? Who made said rule and why? That is not the case! This mess is not okay.
It is hard to share space with so many other people. Even though I am one of the adults, co-partner, co-creator, co-supporter of our family structure, I can easily slip into feeling like just another one of the kids. These people who live with me, who have come from my body, who I am responsible for, are growing up and getting bigger and taking more ownership of their worlds.
This is a good thing. I am grateful for their growing independence. There are so many good things about them being able to fix their own food and pack their own lunches. Still, when I open the refrigerator to get the milk, and a misplaced jar of strawberry jam falls to the ground, and containers of leftover food totter, packed and stuffed into the wrong places, I feel smothered.
Smothered and alone. The space closes in on me physically, and I can’t find a means of escape. I can’t hide the fury. It won’t stuff back down to its usual place. Escape. Hide. Stuff. These survival strategies are familiar.
I pace to the TV room, just off of the kitchen, trying to sort out all that is stirring inside, trying to justify my anger. The deep breaths I take begin to calm me. I do not need to offload on my children. They do not need to pay for or contain my strong feelings. We can sort through what I am experiencing without me assigning blame.
It takes courage to re-enter and re-engage the sticky scene in a different way, to name and own my strong feelings. It is unfamiliar and feels clumsy. I risk stepping into our shared space and naming how it feels. I choose to let my child really see me own my uncertainty. Grace and hope pour down on the room. Spirits lift. Hope returns, and the moment is redeemed.
It is day three of my new normal. The kids are in school for a few more hours. The house is silent. I am shifting and settling into something that might eventually resemble a routine, just not yet.
When I was teaching, I would give myself three weeks to a month before making a judgment on whether the year was working or not. It always ended up working just the way it was supposed to. Adjusting takes time.
I am adjusting.
Rising early to get the day started with the family, without the added pressure of getting myself somewhere on time has been a pleasant adjustment. Learning the new kitchen dance of school mornings, without the demand of getting everyone out the door like a well-oiled machine, has made things more calm and less chaotic.
This year we are in three different schools, down from our record of five. We drop off and pick up this batch of kids, the ones who were babies when their elder siblings were riding buses. While you cannot do over, you can choose to do differently. You can also have conversations about how others were affected by the choices you made.
Lots of those hard conversations are happening now that I have more unstructured time. No two, or eight, children grow up in the same family. I am adjusting to hearing truth and experiences shared with me from all of the perspectives, as the next generation steps up into the shoes of the first, and the first navigates adulthood. It looks a lot different this go around, especially as there are no infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the equation.
The first two hours of my day focus on getting people fed and where they belong. When I arrive home after the final drop-off, Dewey eagerly runs to his leash, ready for a morning walk. This has become the beginning of a routine for us, as I walk him and think about the day. Sometimes a sister calls, or I call a sister (or daughter).
I am working out the time at home between drop-off and pick-up. I still have a brain racing to think of all of the things, when it really needs to slow down. I am practicing slow. I am not getting to all of the things. I get to some. I am learning things about myself that cannot be learned at breakneck speed.
This is where I am. I am grateful for the space to figure out what is next and the gift of learning to be more present in what is now.
How about you, Dear Readers? Where does this start of the new school season find you?