Mothering. I’m Still Learning

This post is for the moms. Mine in particular.

 

I get it now.

I know what it’s like to be tired when I need to chase children.

I know what it’s like to hear for the eighth time this morning that he doesn’t want to eat toast for breakfast even though he’s so so hungry, and it’s grocery day, and there’s not an ounce of food left in the house, and if he’d just eat his fr#cN fr@cn TOAST! We could get our shopping done.

I know what it’s like to not be able to remember my last shower, but my children are lovingly bathed several times a week, hair brushed and wearing matching clothing. I’m wearing yoga pants with holes in them because every pair of pants I own have been snagged on the lid of the metal garbage can.

I know what it’s like to dream up a colourful life for my children, implement it, and spend every day wondering if I’m just messing them up.
I know what it’s like to still feel like a child, despite being a grown up, in charge of raising four beautiful kids.

I know what it’s like to give my heart and soul to these magical beings who love me, but don’t comprehend how incredible their little lives are, so I spend the majority of my mothering feeling unappreciated.

I know the struggle of trying to balance feeding their fires without letting my own extinguish.

I know what it’s like to hear the tiny voice inside of me say “I’m still here”. In fact, occasionally, through flues that pass through 6 people, and sleepless nights with new baby teeth, that tiny voices grows. She stores up her reminders and comes out as a ferocious lion. Sometimes she spills out, like a hot July fire. She burns through me and then moves towards my children, quicker than I can extinguish her.

I know what it’s like to humbly apologize to small faces, unsure if it’s enough.

I know what you meant when you said I’d know when I got older and had children of my own.

Children who teach me about patience, everyday…

They’ve taught me lessons of kindness and self-sacrifice. They’ve taught me about generosity (you can have my last m&m mama), confidence (yes, you can do it!), and the importance of knowing the difference between equal and fair (not the same thing!).

And then there is the most difficult lesson…the lesson of self-love. If I want it so badly for them, I must model it, myself.

Frequently, I’ll catch myself uttering the words I heard you say many times while we were growing up, together…..I’m still learning.

Happy Mother’s Day

xo

MamaBear

Meaningful Work

The words meaningful work have been floating around in my mind lately. What is meaningful work, what does it mean to me?

I’ve always been a dabbler, and by that, I mean, I’ve always dabbled in many different mediums of creativity. As a child even, I was guilty of beginning several different projects, finishing only those that were exciting enough, and moving on to my next outlet. Well, my inner child is alive and well today. She’s trapped inside a 33 year old woman’s body, with silver streaks in her brown hair, tiredness under her eyes, and the desire to create beauty.Never one to replicate my work, I’m always tinkering away at something different. Occasionally, I’ve even received compliments on my resourcefulness, how lovely and thought-filled my work is, and that has always been nice…to hear kind words of appreciation. I’ve always tried to hear it as a compliment when people mentioned how great it must be for me to know how to do so many things.

But as the story goes, those with straight hair, can’t help but wonder how those with wild curls live. What must it be like to be truly great at something? To have studied and become a master. What must it be like to know something inside and out? I won’t ever be one of those people. I don’t say this with a heavy heart. I’m not looking for a pep talk, an encouraging pat on the back that says “you can do it!”. I’m merely stating a fact, the way one states that the sky is blue and that children are young. In the same fashion, I can say, “I’ll never run a marathon”, I also know I’ll never be an expert.I’ll know how to write something someone wants to read. I’ll nurse babies with difficult latches. I’ll grow my own vegetables and flowers. I’ll raise wild children. I’ll sew, bake, draw, design, and paint. I may learn about marketing, or leatherwork, or drumming. I’ll teach children to dance and to hear the beat of the music, and I’ll share my knowledge of herbal remedies. I’ll be a walking book of tidbits of both helpful and useless information, but I’ll never be the next Maya Angelou or Roberta Bondar, and I certainly won’t be the mom with a PhD. It’s not that I lack the intelligence because I don’t.

Some may call it artistry, and some may call it ADD, but I think, it’s simply a combination of the fact that I am so easily distracted by soul awakening beauty, and the awareness that there simply is not enough time while I walk this great earth to see and do all of the things that elicit feelings of awe and pure joy. I just have to dip my fingers into that cool earth and plant this tiny packet of seeds since I simply cannot wait until I get to hold the rainbow of carrots that will surely follow. I have to touch that purple satin ribbon and imagine it woven into a beautiful braid in my daughter’s hair. I must know how those colourful buttons will look strung together on a string, in just that pattern, suspended from a grapevine wreath.

I so admire my friends who have studied and pursued their dreams. I see the value in learning about one subject and becoming very skilled in one’s craft. I can imagine how satisfying it must be to have chosen a speciality, monogamously devoting oneself to a subject of expertise. I also know that meaningful work, in our society, generally implies a decent income or an income in general, a recognized career involving a higher education, and so I’ve spent a long time believing what I do is not as valuable or meaningful. So I set the projects aside that bring my spirit joy and instead I toil away at all of the things that make me grumpy. There’s sewing to be done, but for some reason, I’ve decided that it’s more important to vacuum. It’s only recently that I’m learning to look at my gifts differently. So I’m proposing this experiment to myself for myself, and I invite anyone who wants to to join me. It sounds simple, but I’m certain it won’t be.

For the next year, I’m going to fill my life with beauty. No, despite what it sounds like, I’m not beginning a one-year shopathon. I won’t be bolstering our visa with beautiful things from The Container Store or Etsy, don’t worry Papa Bear. I’m going to spend time doing, creating, and enjoying as many things as possible, in hopes of teaching myself that I have value, that my work is meaningful. . .I’ll try to make the boring bits more beautiful by believing that my time is well spent in spending an extra few minutes on details. I’ll check in here occasionally to post an update or two to keep track of what I’m working on and how easy (or not) it’s been on the journey….I mean, I do have a newborn after all. This means that I’ll have to let go of things that are not serving me….that’s the part I’m going to find tricky. Wish me luck!

 

 

xo

MamaBear

 

 

 

 

 

Pixie Dust and Turning 4

On Monday, the golden brown grass lay bountiful in front of us, and the rest of the week, well it resembled something like a snowpocalypse. That was the garden. Let’s just say its been an indoor kind of week.

One thing that we did enjoy was the celebration of our favourite 4 year old. Remember that post last year? How far we’ve come! I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that birthdays always leave me feeling as though I haven’t quite done enough. I didn’t create enough magic. I didn’t spread sparkles and pixie dust all over childhood memory of birthday number four. I’m sure it’s why so many parents spend more than they really have to in order to impress their young child who would love nothing more than a refrigerator box for a gift. I find myself dreaming up magical pinterest moments, and then Mom Of The Year fulfills son’s birthday wish for rainbow waffles…

We ate peeled waffles for lunch….somehow, he was overjoyed

A new building toy from Papa Bear

A special friend from yours truly….his name was loudly proclaimed to be “Upsidedown”. This time around, I strayed from the traditional wool doll, since Wildflower’s doll, Willow cost us an arm and a leg to supply her lovely organic wool fabric, roving, and yarn, and now we’ve realized, she can’t be washed very easily. Upsidedown has been fashioned out of a piece of organic Lyocell and cotton interlock. It’s probably not going to be used again as it seems to run quite easily, and I had to double it for strength, but it is silky and soft, and, once again, Lil Brother doesn’t seem to mind. The rest of the little friend was made with bits and bobs I’ve saved for a special, unknown purpose. That made this guy one cost effective gift, unlike the one made by Papa Bear that, although could have been inexpensive if we had the parts laying around, wasn’t since it required a trip to the hardware section of Canadian Tire.

It’s funny that until I assembled the pieces of his birthday here in this space, I still felt that I didn’t quite do enough. There were no party hats or streamers. There were no trips to indoor amusement parks, bouncy castles, or groups of children bounding through our home. These are the things that I suppose I measure birthday success against, whether or not they line up with our family culture. Whether or not they were even requested. It wasn’t until I read through this, a birthday compiled in a few quick photos, that I realized I sound ridiculous…it makes me wonder if the “Under the Sea” birthday theme-mom with the bakery-made cupcakes and the blue jello centrepieces and matching loot bags may have the same birthday-hollowness as I do.

All in all, it was a successful birthday. Some close family spent the evening with us. Papa Bear and I remembered what it’s like to start and actually complete a handcrafted item for the first time since our new babe arrived on the scene, and I received a gentle reminder that the scale for measuring birthday joy doesnt come from how much money we spend or how much work we put into it, but the smile on the birthday boy’s face. And that was enough pixie dust for me. How humbling children can be….xo

MamaH.

And Baby Makes Six.

Six.

There are six of us now.

6 mouths to feed. 6 bodies to clothe and care for. 6 minds to educate. 6 souls to inspire.

6 feels like a good number, the right number. 

When Papa Bear and I had originally discussed family size, I had my heart set on 4….or 5 children. Now, I’m all in, elbows deep in the practice of parenting, and nothing allows logic to creep in like making dinner with a crying baby, a teen with a homework crisis, and two children chasing each other while the dog barks. You know…that and pelvic floor physiotherapy.

4 children, 3 who have heard the sound of me yelling from the inside…my logic tells me it is enough…my heart…well that’s another post entirely.

There once was a time when we would all suit up to head out on a family adventure– hats, boots and coats in tow, and as Papa Bear stepped out the door, youngest in arms, I would turn to be certain we had everyone. We both said, many times, that it felt as though we had been forgetting someone.Our family wasn’t quite finished.

Well…he’s here now. He’s here with his chin rolls and knee dimples. He’s here with enough smiles to go around. And he completes us. 

xo

Haymama

THE NEVER ENDING LIST OF WEEKENDRY: how we’re dealing with weekend grumbles

Every week, the kids and I count down the days until the Friday when we can all be together. After dance class on Thursdays, everything moves into a slower, more relaxed weekend pace. It’s going to be a great weekend, we’re thinking. Traditionally, when Big Brother doesn’t have to take off for a weekend at his mom’s, we eat a fun family dinner, while watching a movie together by the wood stove. The youngins head to bed slightly later than usual, since Papa Bear and I are feeling more chill than our usual weekday state. Big brother can normally be found watching a season of something he’s declared the best show ever!!! while tossing down some snacks…this week’s choice was mango and doughnuts (I’m just grateful that part of it was actually food). And me and my other half and our pint-size bundle of ‘I like to sleep between the hours of 8pm and 2am’ head off to catch up on some much needed banter that we didn’t have the energy or time to delve into earlier in the week. It’s going to be a  great weekend….
In my memory, the best Saturday and Sunday mornings are coffee and chirping birds on sunny days. It’s what I remember most about visiting this old house as a child, when I would look out from the upstairs window, out over the rooftop, and feel the warmth of weekend sun on my face. That memory, feels like happiness to me. I can remember the smell of strong coffee, the way my grandparents liked it best, and I remember scurrying down the stairs, hand sliding on the round railing handle, going so quickly that I could skip the last two steps and land with a thud at the bottom. My gramma would be there, dressed to impress, in the itty bitty kitchen with my great-aunt, making cheese and toast. I guess that’s how I fell in love with cheese and toast….

Fast forward 25 years, and here I am in the same home, with my own crazy family. I wake on sunny weekend mornings snuggled in bed with our new baby and Papa Bear, and aside from the nights when I receive very little sleep, I feel pretty lucky. We get up sometime after the usual weekday time to the sound of kiddos watching morning t.v., and head downstairs to make coffee. That’s where we seem to hop into the downward spiral. Somehow, all of the things that we, all of us, have been dreaming about doing, somehow turns into a grumpy argument, and ultimately, we spend the weekend hours in conflict resolution mode…accomplishing nothing…not even enjoying the nothingness.

And then our weekend hopes and dreams spit in our faces right before they wither and die and explode into teensy bits of shrapnel. It seems Big Brother doesn’t want to help with the family clean right now, but would rather have cleaned this morning, so he storms around muttering under his breath while cleaning the glass doors. Little Brother is whining constantly for snacks and he refuses to help pick up just one toy from the ground. Wildflower, although she finished her chores, is now bossing her brother around, who isn’t listening because he doesn’t want to take his laundry to the bathroom, and the dog, Kevin Bacon won’t stop barking or stealing the things that we have already put away. Papa Bear doesn’t know how I put up with this all week long, and since he’s so fed up with the family musical of grumbling, barking, and whining that he throws in the towel and heads upstairs to count backwards from ten before he LOSES it, and there I am, sitting in the middle of it all, nursing a baby, wondering how in the hello we will ever have a great family weekend.

Now here comes the part where I lay out the magical solution I’ve discovered. Peace has come to our family, and we hold hands and skip every weekend….only I’m not that cool.

I don’t have it figured out yet, but this weekend, this one has been …ok. 6/10 maybe? Versus last weekend’s 3/10 (no one died, we ate food…that scored us a 3). So here’s where I’m at for anyone who may be looking for a similar resolution.

There are six of us now + dog. That makes 6+dog to consider…hopes, dreams, and grumbles. Gone are the days of waking up late with just my love, myself, and Big Brother, who was then, the only brother. It’s not easy to drink coffee in peace, let alone go out for breakfast anymore. Plus, we have hopes and dreams for our home, projects to complete, art to make, and sometimes, that just sounds like work.

So we’ve realized two things….what’s been lacking, like in all good quarrels, is communication, but bringing that word up again is going to mean five sets of eyes (I threw in baby’s and Kevin’s for comedic effect) looking at me in that ‘yes dear/mom’ kind of way, so I proposed an email. Yes, amish mama has stepped into the 21st century and started a never-ending list of weekendry email thread where we each list our hopes, whether they be work-related, at home projects, family cleaning, outings, wishes for yummy snacks, and I dare say, this weekend hasn’t turned into an all out brawl. In fact, the list is currently being wrapped up by this blog post early on Sunday afternoon.

The second thing I try to keep in the back of my mind is that the times that we argue the most as a family, are the times when things are great. When we have very few worries, when everyone has everything they need and some of their wants, when our lives feel balanced, we have a tendency to knock it out of whack because I guess, we humans have a thing for self-sabtoge.

 

So there it is…a bit of honesty…me laying it all out there, so that I’m not lumped into that ‘look at me, I live a fantasy life’ kinda blogger….

 

Until next time,

HayMama

Greenery and Winterberries

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding this space entirely, it’s just that birth and everything that it brings, immediately results in my cocooning myself in order to prepare for the immense responsibility and work that I am about to undertake. It doesn’t feel like the right time to spill my guts about new life, the loss a loved one, and everything in between, so I hope you enjoy frivolous chitter concerning greenery and red berries.
fullsizeoutput_5aea Here are a few snaps of some of the work we accomplished this weekend. I didn’t pull it off alone. Luckily Papa Bear was home to snip the branches for me while Wildflower dragged them all back to the front porch, with only a small bit of complaining. She then built this entire display in the old tricycle, complete with bow.
fullsizeoutput_5ae9After snipping branches and strategically arranging them into various-sized pots, we stepped back to admire our work. It was then that I recalled, while taking Wildflower to horseback riding, that there are some beautiful red berries lining the roads along the way. So out went Papa Bear and Big Brother/ newly licensed driver (eek!) in search of winterberries. fullsizeoutput_5aeeTada!fullsizeoutput_5aecWhat I had failed to mention was that the beautiful berries were in the ditch, which actually meant swamp, and my sweet, darling man came home soaked up to the knees, through his workbooks, with icy cold water. Ah….love…or perhaps fear of pregnant-wife tears….or maybe a bit of both.fullsizeoutput_5aedOn another note, I’ve imagined giving birth when the ground is covered in white….and this morning, we awoke to just that…..fullsizeoutput_5aef

Take a peek over at Ottawa Family Living (page 41) to see my latest piece on Papa Bear.

Happy Snow day!

 

xo

MamaHay

Nature’s Solace

On a day like today, when the world could seem an impossible shade of grey, I chose to climb out of bed, get the kids to bundle up, and head out for a morning walk. fullsizeoutput_552eThe wind on our cheeks and the sunlight in our eyes has a knack of providing us with the balance that these last few days have been lacking…even the dog knows things aren’t quite right with the world.
fullsizeoutput_5530It’s as though we are meant to spend time in nature. It’s what keeps us from becoming cold and callous.  All around, tiny miracles take hold. There is beauty in the simple things; things that cannot be seen from tall towers in the concrete jungle….a flower that shouldn’t have bloomed in this cold, a tiny tree still standing after so many around it have been cut, stacked, and burned…it’s all there just being. I could say it’s waiting for us, but that’s part of its beauty. It doesn’t need us. It doesn’t care about us. It happens without us. fullsizeoutput_5534How peaceful insignificance can feel.fullsizeoutput_552f

As we trickle back into our home, the tea is poured and we head to our school work. The gentle predictability of our day brings me solace. I’m just one tiny person (technically two), and I’m not naive enough to believe that I can change the world alone, so today I’ll focus on what I can do. I take a deep breath, reminding myself that inner peace lies just beyond the threshold…and I join my children in our daily work.

peace&kindness

HayMama

Autumn’s Bounty

Last weekend, through our business, Element Studios, we were privileged to have Amber from The Wild Garden, join us at our place to teach a small gathering of lovely folks a lesson in autumnal herbs and their valuable roots. img_4582 img_4589Being the second workshop we’ve held with Amber this year, I felt a bit more prepared to handle the day and the visitors. I knew about the laid back feel of the afternoon spent with an open mind, learning valuable information that connects us to something vital, an old tradition lost. img_4591Although we have welcomed both men and women to the wildcrafting event at our homestead, this day serendipitously called together a gathering of women, and the sacred energy that comes when feminine spirits of all sorts come together. I tend to be most sensitive to this energy when I need it most, during pregnancy, while in the breast-feeding phase of life, and I suspect the need will continue as I grow and age. In a time when women are increasingly critical of each other, it can be so refreshing to be reminded that we have a lot to learn from each other. We are wise in all phases of life if our hearts and minds are open and in tune to each other. img_4590As always, Amber, poised and proficient in her field, lead us through an informative walk, pointing out some of fall’s useful roots. Meanwhile each of us, at different times, nodded in acknowledgment of the new information, excited to have a new gem to add to our own apothecaries. I can only speak for myself here, but something in me was revived after such a lovely afternoon, that I couldn’t help but indulge in a little bit of herbal gathering, organizing, and creating of our own. It feels good to be inspired by something practical.img_4617img_4620img_4632Thanks to our Amber’s wisdom, we’ve been gathering asters to make an infused honey for wintery sore throats. img_4626img_4592

I’ve made a nettle infusion to help boost my iron as well; however, most of our projects have gone undocumented, since it feels best when I’m connected to what I’m making, rather than thinking about capturing the moment to preserve forever.img_4631 What am I most excited about? Wildflower, while standing on the kitchen table, emptied out our entire apothecary; we combined all of last years healing herbs into a Mama soak for postpartum baths, ridded out anything that has been exposed to too much light, losing its colour and smell, and we made space for all of this summer’s new creations. It feels good to be re-inspired.

**you may notice, some of the photos from today’s post show faces, unlike the usual moments I capture here. Thanks to those lovely ladies who allowed me to sneak their photo to keep a record for our business **

until next time,

happy fall

HayMama

September

img_4546 img_4547 img_4548 img_4551September has passed by me in a blur, and I find myself closer to my due date than I’d like to admit. With much to be done, it’s easy to lose sight of what is right in front of me.img_4538 But worrying about the things I cannot finish, paint, bend over to pick up, and lift, is about as useful as my watching the presidential debate ( although I know it’s not a positive contribution to my emotional welfare, I tend to dabble in it anyways…what can I say? Sometimes it’s hard to look away). img_4537While Papa Bear has been working overtime, the kiddos and I have been hauling in the harvest (Big Brother does the hauling). We’ve fallen into a good routine, cleaning house together on Monday mornings, and beginning our school work daily by 9’o’clock. We finally hung our heads in shame and paid that whopping library fine so we could start taking books and movies out again, and we’re reading together everyday. So far so good. img_4532 img_4530It’s only September…
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Mabon Blessings

 

HayMama

Making Peace with Letting Go

The turn of the season is undeniably upon us, and although there are still hot humid days ahead, the nights are cold and clear, reminding me of what is to come. In the past, autumn has always been the most delightful season for me, bringing all things that I find delightful– refreshing temperatures, crock pot dinners, the first fire in the stove; however, these magical moments always seem to overshadow the memory of the difficult stuff. The business, the work that comes before winter.img_4103

The yellowing grass and the drying beans in the garden are symbolic of more than just the change of year, as we head towards the Equinox, we too, may be reminded of things that must change in our own lives. It’s funny how these traditional ways can still sneak in to our modern world, without our even knowing it. That restlessness in our souls, calling out the stream of things from the summer’s list that won’t be checked off? Those things are real, timeless, and part of the common experience. They remind us of something more than just not planting the third crop of peas or taking the kids to one more museum before the end of the summer. It’s so easy for things undone to snowball into how we see ourselves, how accomplished we believe ourselves to be, and how much greatness we are or are not offering to those around us. img_4109Historically, these feelings of dissatisfaction with our summer accomplishments were a survival instinct. If we didn’t complete all of our tasks before the first snow, our families were sure to parish. Today, the laundry lists may not be as urgent to our very survival, but they are still bound tightly to our nature.The sense of urgency is still prominent. So it only makes sense that we take this time, on a yearly basis, to step back and take stock of what’s really important and make peace with letting go. img_4111The words letting go, have been there, mockingly in the back of my mind for a few months now, as a common theme in my writing, since pregnancy, this one of several, has left me feeling tired and a bit defeated. Overall, my value, my sense of purpose, comes from what I contribute to my home, my family, my work, and the world around me, and it seems as though just creating a human, as miraculous as it may be, doesn’t resonate with the general population as valuable. I feel it.img_4112I’ve taken a good look around me, and I’ve made decisions, some conscious, some unintentional, to let things go…my garden, my chickens, my generally clean home, much of what I choose to write about here. I’ve begun to look a bit closer at relationships, those worth keeping, those worth fighting for, and those that I’ve kept at for far too long, giving more than my share, while I’m still left feeling empty. Perhaps it’s the time of year to let those go as wellimg_4113I had thought I had whittled away the list enough, until my caring midwife, began to call out everything on my list…things that I don’t even think are list-worthy, and I began to see her point when she jokingly added in the phrase all this while making my own preserves and knitting my own clothing. “But I am doing those things!” I proclaimed. She severely pointed out how it would sound to me if my good friend had repeated the same list of things to me while telling me that she didn’t know why she was so tired. I think the tears I shed following this talk were tears of relief. Relief in knowing that I’m just rightfully tired. So what else is on the chopping block? Well, those out of doors projects that I had excitedly mentioned here, they’ve almost all been set aside for next year, but after that, I’m having a hard time letting go.img_4105And then there is a much deeper, more literal form of letting go that I was reminded of this past month as my beautiful friend married her long-time partner, dressed from head to toe in lace and flowers, surrounded by a halo of joyous light. I felt privileged to be there, capturing their magical day with my lens, and I couldn’t help but notice that there is something almost relaxing about a wedding between two people who really know each other. But the moment that hit me most, was when I scooted (my pregnant version of running) behind the bride as she sped off in her best dress after her father as he made his exit from the day, much earlier than, I’m sure, he would have liked. Having been given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, he was every bit entitled to make his departure. As she stood next to him, we snapped a few photos, of the bride, on her wedding day, next to her father, tears of every emotion streaming down her face. She is letting go, much earlier than, I’m sure, she would like. Having walked in those shoes nearly five years ago with my own father, I know those feelings. The confusion of so much happiness in my own life, flipping back and forth into the terror that grief brings. I know the difficult moments that are to yet to come, and I know about the process of letting go of someone whom I’ve loved dearly. I know that sickness, hovering around my solar plexus, and I am far too familiar with the sense of guilt for the feelings of relief that flood in when it is all over. I know about the years of laying everything to rest afterwards. img_4115This Thanksgiving will mark five years that I’ve lived without my father. I wish I could say that there was something magical in the lesson, that there really was some deep and hidden meaning in the struggle, but sometimes letting go is just work. It’s hard and occasionally unfair. It’s a process, not a whim. It moves us forward, regardless of whether or not we are ready.And when it comes to letting go of control, are we ever really ready?img_4106                    The magical discovery of the spider’s art was made and captured by Papa Bear

 

 

xo Mama Bear