family & home

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Lately Ruthie has been a bit fussy. It wasn’t teeth, we did that a few weeks ago.She’s been eating well, so I ruled that out. IMG_1978 IMG_1983

I thought she was a bit frustrated with her scoot-but-can’t-crawl status. She’s starting to get into everything, but still seemed generally unhappy with her place on the floor, surrounded by various kitchen items to play with. I was puzzled.IMG_1987 IMG_1988

And then, one day Stewart grabbed his baby girl with one arm and carried out the shovel with the other. He had some digging to do and Ruthie was to join him. IMG_1994

When I went out to check on them 45 minutes later, there she was; smiling, kicking, and squealing like her usual self.  IMG_1995

She had dirt in her toes, dirt in her fingernails, dirt in the creases of her little rubber band wrists. She had dirt on her nose, dirt on her legs, and dirt in her diaper. IMG_1997-001

I had found Ruthie in her natural habitat. How had I forgotten , after no less than four children, that they are happiest in the dirt?

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There are times when I stop and re-evaluate why we’re doing this and, more to the point, how we’re doing this. When it’s 100 degrees and everyone’s cranky and hot and I am reminded that air conditioning does in fact exist, for instance. (Truth be told, I think air conditioning makes dealing with the heat worse but I am not going to complain about the relief it lends when I step into the frigid 70 degree grocery store.)

Why we don’t have air conditioning is about as complex as motherhood, which I’ll get to in a bit. The short story is that air conditioning takes a lot of energy and we don’t have the solar system, grid power, or cold hard cash to make it work. The long story is that we don’t think it is a priority amongst the many other things we find more important to invest in.

So, it’s not that we deliberately avoid it because we find something wrong with it. We have just decided it’s not a priority. And we can live without it, it just makes a few months out of the year a bit difficult and most definitely unproductive. We are exploring more sustainable cooling options, but that is a post for another day.

So, we live with the consequences of our choices and honestly, (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) living in this heat is getting easier.

There are other “consequences” or results of the path we’ve chosen. We homeschool, work from home, and try to focus most of our productivity at home and so we’re all here all the time.

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This is a huge blessing and one that I try not to take for granted. But that also means we spend a ton of time together. I’d like to tell you that I’m impervious to the constant noise, questions, and needs of four of my favorite little people. I’d like to tell you that I smile constantly and have patience 100% of the time and speak with nothing but sweetness toward my children and husband all day long.

I’d also like to not tell big fat lies on the internet, so I’ll just admit right now that none of those things are true.

Here’s what I do know: I am not a great Mom. Some women are naturals with newborns and teenagers and everything in between and you witness this beautiful picture of a woman who nurtures her children with grace and patience, as if it came naturally.

That’s not me.

I have never in my eight years of motherhood felt that I had this. Not when all I had was one little man. Not when I had running water and electricity and that giant white helper called a washing machine. Not when we had walls or bedrooms or I talked to my husband about something other than the children and the homestead.

No matter how many conveniences I’ve had and no matter how seemingly easy my life has felt, pretty much everyday has been an absolute failure on my end. The days I spoke too harshly. The days I didn’t have enough patience. The days my meals flopped or burned or didn’t even get cooked. The times my children wore the past three days worth of meals all down the front of their shirts. That time I got into the car, breathed a sigh of relief that we were all dressed, and then looked down to see me wearing slippers and one sock. The every single day someone somewhere has launched any and all clean socks into the stratosphere without notifying me that we even own a cannon.

(Seriously, where do my children put all of their socks?!)

Here’s what else I know: Despite my own failures, and constant need for prayer and patience, I love this job. I love the results of the decisions we’ve made and the lessons I’m learning through them. There are even moments, between the sock cannonballs and my lack of patience, that would make perfect blog fodder. They might even make me look confidently capable.

But what makes them so beautiful, what makes me stop and catch my breath and realize how blessed I am, is the juxtaposition of that moment with the raw reality of the every day.

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Two weeks ago, for instance. Ruthie cut three teeth and was miserable, which meant a lot of rocking and snuggling and fussing. I sat her down next to Abram one morning and his six years of wisdom told me “Ruth’s kind of fussy, huh Mama?“.

“Yep,” I said and breathed deeply as I mentally ran over my to-do list that had been hijacked by this sweet baby.

Then he looked right at her and said “Except, she’s beautiful.”

And I nodded… and I cried… because I’ve never had a job reward me so deeply while failing at it so miserably.