Month: September 2015

Harvest Season

At this time of year, harvest is abundant!  Processing food for the winter months is all consuming and the incoming volume of produce seems relentless.  We have been working our way through bushels of tomatoes, peppers, apples and cucumbers that have blessed our counters.  It’s hard to see that volume of perishable food as a blessing when you’re drowning in domestic tasks, but it truly is.  We have such gratitude for the fresh fruits and vegetables that have come to us from toxin free environments and loving hands.  In the midst of feverish attention to kitchen tasks, I am trying to stop and remind myself that this food will sustain us, that my work now will be what sustains us.  The process of storage and use undulates between stressful and easy.  The beauty is in this binary relationship of catching and storing energy for later release.  This burst of hard work makes room for the more laid back introspective months to come.  I love the ability to pop down to the cellar for a jar of this or that in the winter, opening a jar of homemade whatever brings back a rush of summer in the midst of snow covered branches.

There are other harvests happening at this time too, as we take stock of how we spent our time this past year.  We have been noticing which things we’ve put our energy into that were fruitful and which were not.  It is in the harvest season where we already begin to dream ahead to next spring, postulating on which plants to keep and which to replace with something different.  Did we have enough of this or too much of that?  We are also thinking on our time as a commodity as of late.  Looking at how we spend our minutes, with too much of this or too little of that.  The beauty of harvest is that even though our hands are busy, we are set to a task which helps our busy minds sort out the emotional harvest of the year.

The Sound of Crying

Our culture has a very low tolerance for crying.  I know this because I feel it in my gut every time one of my children begins.  I think that our mammalian instinct to run to the aid of our child has been misplaced.  Instead of a genuine care for the well being of our child, our instinctual response has been directed toward ‘making it stop.’  I frequently observe people trying to find ways to stop the expression of children’s heavy emotions.  It’s like some sort of emergency when a child cries.  People leap from chairs into action like something I’ve never seen before.  It would be one thing if we were rushing toward our children to comfort them and be present for them during their difficult emotions.  Instead, many people say things like, ‘You’re alright’ – which clearly they aren’t, or try to distract the child by whisking them away from the situation toward something else.  I only wish this type of urgency could be redirected toward things which warrant our swift attention.  If only we were that on fire for something we actually have the right and power to control…ourselves!

There are indeed safety considerations when we are thinking of children crying, because it is fear that moves us to action in a hurry.  But most of the time my children’s cries are over emotional hurts rather than physical ones, and the fear is more of being judged as a parent than for the well being of our children.  Our children who cry because they want to be heard, understood, and ultimately comforted in their moments of discomfort.   I want to raise children who know how to embrace a diverse range of emotions including the not so savory ones, with the knowledge that they will pass.  Our emotions can blow over, just like clouds, if we are able to learn how to honour them while they are here.  When we fail to acknowledge our emotions, then they find unhealthy ways to stay within us, manifesting and expressing themselves in other and unexpected ways.  Should we not be valuing expression of emotions in order to value the person?

I am learning to slow myself down.  When someone is crying, I begin by taking a few deep breaths and centering myself.  I don’t pretend to be separate from the culture I was raised in and still participate in.  I make mistakes, and sometimes feel impatience towards my crying child.  What I can do is try to push back against it, recognizing what a wonderful gift I have in knowing that there is a different and in my opinion, better way – to choose support.  I make a lot of mistakes, but don’t we all.  Honouring my self as a learner in need of my own support  who is also capable of my own emotional storms is only human.  And in effect, good modelling for my children.  So long as compassion remains at the heart of my interactions, the way I ‘make things right’ when I’ve messed up may be the most valuable lesson of all.

Earlier this summer during a visit to a local splash pad (an interesting invention that is ace at wasting water) we met another family with two young children.  The young boy had recently had eye surgery, taking him from legally blind to nearly perfect vision.  The day we met them was the first day he had been able to play outside since regaining his sight.  He and his sister  were running around so quickly that at one point that they hit each other head on.  There was an audible crack when their heads made contact.  I watched the little girl fly backward onto the concrete, hearing another thump.  My eyes welled.  I felt helpless, but my discomfort swelled as I heard their mother’s first reaction…”You’re alright.”

Perhaps it was her own discomfort in feeling there was nothing she could do to make it better.  She couldn’t undo their pain.  She couldn’t do anything to remove the hurt.  But what is available to us as parents is the opportunity to meet our children emotionally.  We have the ability to comfort them.  We have the capacity to be present for them in their struggles.  This is what I wish for myself in difficult times; compassion.  Why is it that we cannot treat our children with the same compassionate respect that we hope to receive ourselves?

Respecting Play

I have struggled with the idea of playing with my children.  I have never considered myself as being too ‘good at it.’  I’m not sure how that’s even possible, but I often feel like I have ‘better things to do.’  It stings just to write those words.  I watch my husband return home from work and jump right into the kids games, building lego creations together, imagining space trips on the sofa, or having a rough housing session on the rug.  I am in the habit of witnessing it, not participating in it.  I often would marvel at my husband’s ability to fully engage with their play.

I am great at being present for my children’s play and have happily existed alongside it.   I am mastering the art of letting them do their own thing without interjecting to help or try and direct their work – because play is the work of a child.  But for the most part I rarely involve myself in their games.  There are many times where I am invited to play with my children, but choose instead to be near them while I fold laundry, unload the dishwasher, put laundry into the washing machine, tidy the spaces, prepare food, hang laundry on the line, sweep the floor, or any other number of things on my unending ‘to do’ list.  The truth is I choose something else.  I make the jobs a priority.  And they do need to be a priority sometimes, or else our life would start to unravel.  But perhaps questioning the reasons why I’m not choosing to participate is the more important issue worthy of some attention.

Yesterday I returned from a weekend retreat to pick up my children at my parent’s place.  They had watched them for the day, since Rob and I both had commitments yesterday.  The children were glad to see me, and started to get riled up in the basement shortly after I arrived.  They had been planning to head outdoors to feed the fish in my parent’s pond before my arrival, so I encouraged our transition to outside.  Once outside, a spontaneous game of cops and robbers emerged.  My son asked me if I would be a robber.  I agreed, running wildly all over my parent’s back yard until they caught me, taking my hands and gently leading me to the ‘jail’ behind the storage shed.  The game was splendidly compassionate.  The ‘cops’ treated me so kindly, offering me water and good food, like eggs, bacon, toast with butter and ice cream.  Somehow, I was always able to escape, making for a predictable outcome each time around.  It was wonderful.  I was invited to join in their game.  I had fun with my children, rather than by just watching them.  I let them dictate the game, but brought out my own sense of play within their structure.  I was trusted enough to be invited in.  I trusted myself enough to step in.

Perhaps it was because I was away from my own home and list of chores that I could participate fully.  Or maybe because I missed my babies, and wanted to engage meaningfully with them once reunited.  Or perhaps it was because I had just allowed myself to be away from the family in order to do the work of ‘play’ for myself.  Regardless of the reasons, the lesson was clear: it is when I can turn off the endless ticking of my internal ‘to do’ list and engage my full self in something that I am truly rejuvenated.  Feeling like I’m stealing away from the pile of dishes to guiltily write my blog for example, is not helping me to reclaim true inner peace.  It is when I can let loose and be free from my mind’s bidding with the knowledge that it will certainly be there for me to pick up again when I’m ready, that I am able to follow my heart instead.  When I listen with my heart, then I can really play.

Play feeds the soul.  It is a way to catch and store energy!  My adult self has forgotten this for the most part.  The overculture is great at maintaining the illusion that I’m ‘wasting time’ when I am doing anything but work.  Anything but ‘producing results.’  But what is grossly undervalued in our society is how play sparks joy!  Being joyful without money or things goes against the industrial growth mindset.  It is for this reason that I consider uninhibited play to be a form of activism.  I can sing, dance, run, drum, pretend or barrel roll down a hill for free.  The things that bring the most joy are free, an in fact, aren’t things at all.  I am beginning to taste the sweetness of freeing myself enough to play.  Opening up times for fun without destinations in mind.  Time dedicated to no outcome.  But out of this release of expectations there is indefinitely an outcome anyway…one that is more beautiful than anything I could have imagined.  Play invites connection.

We’re Having Fun…Right?

This summer has been a busy one around here.  We’ve been racing from one event to the next, taking weekend trips and day trips – packing as much into our days without coats as possible.  We are tired.  We are all tired.  What seemed like  a good idea at the beginning of the summer, to get lots of small trips and experiences in during the good weather, has left us feeling like we hopped on board a ride we really didn’t want to be on.

Don’t get me wrong, we have had so much fun!  Or at least I think we did.  We got to enjoy so many attractions and things outside of our regular home rhythm…which is what I thought I wanted at the beginning of the summer.  It was what I wanted.  A break from the routine.  A chance to experience things beyond what we normally do.  But now that I’m at the other end of the summer, with all of our wild adventures behind us, I’m ready to settle down into a predictable pattern again.  I am grateful for the solid four days in a row that we have been able to have predictable naps and bedtimes.  I am eager for our days to flow more predictably for a while. I am welcoming the chance to maintain my homestead and embrace the housework with more joy in my heart.  This is something that just doesn’t feel possible when I am not able to create the time and space to enjoy the routine tasks because we have places to go.  The season is changing.  I am ready.

Our counters are piled high with things from harvest, watermelons we plan to dehydrate, cucumbers that will become fermented relish, peaches that will be pureed for fruit leather, and three stock pots full of this year’s frozen tomatoes awaiting stewing and canning.  There is a lot to be done.  But the work is enjoyable, when I am able to create enough space to view it that way.  When I am pulled out of the house so often,  it is impossible for things to get done.  The work piles up, and when I finally do get to it, I begrudge it because I feel like I need a break!

Being on ‘holiday’ with three little kids it turns out, isn’t really a vacation at all, since I spend a full day at either end packing and unpacking.  While away the children are distracted by the new sights and sounds, and do very well, but aren’t really at their best.  We were doing amazing things, like visiting train museums, seeing an aquarium, interacting at a science centre, and visiting with family and friends.  But intertwined in all of these amazing experiences were a lot of tears, long car rides, potty accidents, and general frustration.

The fall out of my children’s lack of sleep and pushing their limits of social interaction usually lasts a week after things return to our regular rhythm.  Our summer has been so packed with ‘fun’ that these periods of regulation have been overlapping!  There hasn’t really been a time to return to our ‘normal’ rhythm until now.  I am really tempted to get out of the house and ‘do something’ since it feels like uncomfortable to sit with all of this unfocused energy, but I’m trying to stay the course.  I want to weather the storms with my children in the safe place of our home so that I can support each of them much as possible.  It seems easier to stay on the band wagon and keep them busy and doing, but I know this isn’t a long term solution, because it certainly isn’t the lifestyle I want to live.

Under the allure of new and exciting experiences, and perhaps a peppering of feeling like we’d be ‘missing out‘ if we didn’t, we did a variety of things this summer.  I have successfully attained a break from home life, but in doing so, I have bought into the overculture of doing.  Our family has forgotten how to just be.  Today is the first day in a long time where I feel that we are successfully making our way back to reclaiming ourselves as human beings.

Model Graciousness

I read this post today and thought it was so lovely I had to share!

Visible Child

stubbornchildThere’s a parenting question that comes up perhaps more frequently than any other. We seem to be able to wrap our heads around how to respectfully set limits, offer choices, acknowledge their feelings, understand the differences between natural and logical consequences, even calmly support them through tantrums. But when push comes to shove, there is one thing that stumps us:

“What do I do when they simply refuse to do what I am asking them to do?”

I would reword the question, actually.  Don’t get me wrong, I hear you.  You’re asking what to do when your kids refuse to pick up their toys, put their clothes on, brush their teeth, clean up a mess they made.  I know.  i would still reword it.  I hear the words that you are asking.  And after they go through the filter that is oh-so-handily inside my ears, the question…

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Mushroom Innoculation

At our party last weekend, we had intended to do grafting and mushroom inoculating, but didn’t get to the latter.  Rob has been working on evenings this week to complete the task, which is not difficult, just time consuming.  Amassing the items required for the job was the most tedious part.

We have been collecting wax for a while, getting a bunch of old beeswax from a friend (which inadvertently attracted a swarm!) and kept it for this purpose.  We didn’t want to make waste of a paintbrush by covering it with wax, so my husband and eldest son had a good foray around the yard looking for a brush substitute.  They settled on a dried Queen Anne’s Lace flower.  It worked well!

The process went something like this:  Find the appropriate type of healthy wood for the mushroom spawn you have – logs should be at least 6″ in diameter.  If the wood is old and dried out (in other words, older than a couple of weeks or stored in the sun) it needs to be soaked over night.  For our sawdust spawn, we drilled holes in the wood 7/16″ wide and 1/2″ deep spaced 6″ apart in a diamond pattern.  Plug the holes with spawn by pushing it in the holes with a dowel.  Cover the hole and spawn with wax to protect it from weather and insects.  Find a shady spot for the logs.  Wait.

Building Community with Skill Share

This past weekend we invited friends over to learn how to graft fruit trees!  Rob and a couple of other attendees have attended workshops with Ken Taylor to learn how to graft onto root stock.  There were a few reasons for us to host a work party.  Realistically, we have been meaning to do this grafting for a while, but it never seems to make it to the top of the ‘to do’ list, so scheduling a time on the calendar with people coming over made it possible to get the work done.  We also enjoy having many like minded people around, and any excuse for a gathering is a good one.  We were also excited to share the skills we’re developing with others.  The most beautiful and unexpected part for me though was sharing the process of learning – that messy bit where no one really is sure they’re doing the right thing.  Muddling through the learning process with others to support and guide each other made the whole process so much more enjoyable.

We took it slow.  We started by watching a short video demonstration of what we were about to do before heading out to the garden.   During the grafting process we took time to pause and talk, look at each others work, ask questions, and generally meander through the afternoon together.  It was nice to have a relaxed but purposeful atmosphere.  There were many children in attendance as well, which added to the joy of the afternoon.  Because there were so many adults around, no one really had to watch them, they were playing close by.  It all seemed so natural.  There was flow to the afternoon, as the grafting finished up, we drifted into a pot luck dinner.  People came and went as they needed to.  It was easy.  It was what I envision life should be like.  It was a taste of life lived in community.