The Pain in the Joy

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Motherhood is is full of paradox. From the moment we learn of our child’s existence, we begin a process of constantly holding and letting go. This little person is part of our very being (spiritually, if not physically) and yet a totally separate human being. They arrive, and we let go while simultaneously embracing. They grow, and we watch in unspeakable joy, yet with each milestone reached we must let go just a bit more. Let go, and trust. The cord is cut, and we no longer share one body. They need us at every second, even to support their tiny floppy heads, and then less, and less. They wean. They crawl, then walk, and then run away from us (and yet return for comfort, again and again). We continue, being there, loving, holding, and still constantly letting go. May I just point something out here, that perhaps sometimes we’re afraid to say out loud? Amidst all of the amazing joy of all of this, it is also gut-wrenchingly painful for us as mamas. Remember, this child was literally a part of you and always will be. It is wonderful to see our little ones learning, changing, becoming the people they are destined to be. But it also feels a bit like a punch in the stomach, as we let go and practice trusting that they will be okay, and as we watch each stage pass, gone forever in favor of the new.
It is okay—even totally essential—to acknowledge this. In one of my favorite podcast episodes ever, Rob Bell spoke of The Good Grief. It deeply affected me, and has been on my mind ever since. With every new thing in our lives, something else must be coming to an end. Each time we gain something, we also lose something. This applies to parenthood, and also every other aspect of life. It is healthy for us to grieve these small things. If we refuse to acknowledge what is passing away, in fear that it will make us seem ungrateful for the wonderful new things happening, we are ignoring a part of our own hearts that needs the pain to be acknowledged. In allowing ourselves to observe and fully feel the pain even in the smallest things, we honor what was, and we allow ourselves to let it go and then fully be present and grateful in the now.
And you know what’s so incredibly beautiful about all of this? When you let yourself do this, you give yourself permission to feel everything more completely, including the present moment. In acknowledging the bittersweet heartache of my kids growing, each new stage bringing about the end of the previous one, I find myself so much more grateful for the present stages they’re in—wanting to soak in every detail and truly pay attention while it lasts.
So I’ll allow myself to feel a little sad that Eaden looks different (albeit every bit as cute) now that she has teeth, and that Isaac is looking less and less “little” lately as the last of his toddler chub disappears, and even that Seth no longer needs my help with most of his day-to-day tasks (yes, with that one I may be simultaneously grieving and cheering!)… but mostly I will hug them as often as I can, and notice the color of their eyes when I look at them, and pay as much attention as I can, as often as I can, to every detail. And I’ll take pictures (so many pictures), because every bit of it is worth remembering.

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Our Homeschool Life: June

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life skills

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our group now has our plot at a local community garden, which we started clearing out and will be planting seeds in this week.

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lessons in the value of hard work

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we finished Charlotte’s Web and the corresponding language arts lessons, and then watched the movie!

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our wild + free group!

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nature play

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keeping cool with beach days

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Frog and Toad! Seth’s reading fluency has been increasing dramatically–it’s so much fun to watch!

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an introduction to photography with a simple film camera. additional lessons in self control (because you only have 12 shots) and patience (because now we wait for processing)!

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we’re now in our interim month between 1st and 2nd grade, so besides plenty of Summer fun, we’re diving in and finishing our study of the solar system and space exploration. one day we read the book Starry Messenger by Peter Sis to learn all about Galileo!

I’m about to jump into planning out Seth’s second grade year. In an interesting turn of events, I decided to use a new curriculum, My Father’s World. This year we’ll be using their “Adventures in U.S. History” for our history, literature, science, and Bible. We’ll incorporate our early American history Beautiful Feet Books, and will continue with Brave Writer language arts, and Math Mammoth (supplemented with Khan Academy and waldorf math work). This is going to be my first year really doing more serious advanced planning, but I’m doing it in a way that still allows us a lot of flexibility. I’ll share my methods here in a future post.

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Slow down and breathe

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With age 29 coming up for me in a few months, I have a some thoughts. For several years, I made lists on each birthday of the things I wanted to do and experience in the coming year. Often most of them didn’t happen—many times I carried them over to the next year, and the next. It’s not because I didn’t care enough to go after these things, it’s just that priorities tended to shift as life went on, with all of its unexpected twists and turns.

I’ve spent my 20’s primarily having and raising babies, as well as building a business from scratch, and often simply hoping to get all of the bills paid and put food on the table. All of these factors made things like international travel feel like a pipe dream. It is okay though. This doesn’t depress me because I know there will be time and resource for all of that in coming years.

My current everyday existence may appear less glamorous and exciting, but it is its own awesome adventure. This whole life-with-littles thing, it’s a get to. I get to be the one watching my beautiful children grow, day by day. I get to teach and love them, comfort and guide them; I’m witnessing their “firsts” and helping set the foundation their entire lives will be built on. And then I will get to see them spread their own wings and make their own amazing lives, and I’ll look back on these precious, fleeting days and I know I won’t wish that I’d gotten to travel more, or that I’d spent more hours hustling to build my career. I’ll just be glad for all the time I spent fully present with them—holding, listening, teaching, loving. This is something I aim to keep in mind constantly—may I always put this above all else, above “busy” and above work and above the to-do list. May I not allow “getting things done” to ever keep me from taking the time to pour into my kids with patience and grace. 

Europe will still be there in 10 years. So I’m not making a birthday list of things to check off during this final year of my 20’s. There will be no “30 Before 30”.
Instead, there’s this: whatever is happening in the current moment, whatever I am doing at any given time, may I be fully IN that. If I’m drinking a cup of coffee, may I notice and savor the flavor, the aroma, and the smooth feel of the mug in my hands. If I’m feeding Eaden, may I hold her tiny hand and look into her eyes rather than my phone. If I’m reading aloud to my boys, may I cuddle closer and put all other things out of my mind, enjoying the story along with them. If I’m in a conversation with someone (child, or adult) may I look them in the eye and focus solely on what they’re saying. May I notice things, pay attention to the details, and live in gratitude for all of it.

How often are we so busy that we even resort to attempting multiple tasks at once? We’re so pulled in multiple directions that we’re becoming incapable of focusing on just one thing, and in turn we aren’t giving our best to anything at all. In Teaching From Rest, Sarah Mackenzie writes,

“There just isn’t a way to steep yourself in this moment if you multitask your way through it. With the exception of automatic behaviors such as walking and talking, our brains can only attend to one thing at a time. What we usually think of as multitasking is actually task switching, and it is both an inefficient and ineffective way to work.”
and further—
“By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. But relationships don’t flourish or grow that way. Relationships need time, spent lavishly.”

We all too often prioritize efficiency over relationships, even though we know that people are always more important. Doing things differently requires intentionally going against the grain of our overly fast-paced culture, and unlearning the deep-seeded mindset we have learned from it. I recently came across a blog post on A Cup of Jo on “single-tasking” or “mono-tasking”. It was a great post, and yet I find it a little bit crazy that an entire new buzzword has been created for the concept of focusing on one thing at a time. Our cultural tendency to glorify “busy” has reached such an extreme that we now see simply doing one task at once as a novel idea. How often, when you ask (or are asked) how someone is doing, is the answer almost automatically some version of “Oh I’ve been crazy busy!”? I feel like this is almost always the case. It’s basically expected. Most of us live in a constant state of stress and rushing. We have paid steeply for our frenzied pace of life, in the form of chronic stress, anxiety, severe health problems, disconnected relationships, and a shocking inability to focus well or work well on anything.

For me, this is all the more evidence for the need to step off the crazy train and intentionally create slowness in my life and that of my family. Not only despite it being countercultural, but because it is. I want my children to know the art of just doing nothing, and the magical creativity that comes from boredom. I want our home to be a place to breathe—one of peace and unhurried life. I want to be able to honestly say that the pace of my life is not too much, because I’m living it at human speed and am leaving enough margin to actually breathe.

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my constant reminder.

Some further reading on this that I’ve enjoyed:

Discovering the Joy of Single Tasking
Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)
Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace
Faster Than the Speed of Life

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Battling anxiety with hope and oils

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I haven’t talked about it here yet, but if you follow me on instagram or are friends with me in person, you know that in June of this year—after over a year and a half of trying—I was pregnant. And then by the first week of July, I wasn’t. Losing a baby was something that I never expected. Always knew it to be a possibility, yes, but it’s something that can’t feel close and real until it actually happens to you. I always trusted my body completely in pregnancy and birth, and had very little fear surrounding that stage of life. So when I was hit so suddenly with the loss of our tiny baby at 8 weeks, it was a shock I could never have been prepared for. The emotional and physical pain was greater than I ever would have thought. Over the weeks that followed, the most intense pain of it dulled gradually. I stopped crying during diaper commercials (well, for the most part at least). But in place of that pain, anxiety had entered. I was on edge all the time. The boys would climb onto me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe; any type of crowd made me want to run far and fast; I worried over every little thing and couldn’t sleep at night—everything in life felt magnified and too heavy. It took me a while to realize that it had been spurred by my miscarriage. Through a conversation in a friend’s kitchen, it dawned on me how freaked out I was by the thought of getting pregnant again, while simultaneously wanting it more than anything. And so I began the work of trusting God and accepting that it’s out of my hands and in much more capable ones.

Around that time we received our starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. After hearing them recommended time after time for anxiety and depression, I decided to start using Valor and Joy daily- I dilute them 1:1 with a carrier oil in a little roller bottle, and roll just a little on my wrists, heart, and behind my ears once or twice a day. The difference I’ve felt has been amazing. The best way to explain it is that I feel balanced, and more grounded. I can breathe again, and life is still life, but I don’t constantly feel like it’s more than I can bear.

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So I’m clinging to hope, trusting in things I can’t see, and so thankful to have these wonderful, completely natural tools to help me heal. I will never stop being sad when I think about the baby we lost, but I know that we are okay, and that we’ll have another baby when we’re meant to. For now, I am feeling better, and that feels freakin awesome.

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