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My husband is on vacation right now. Yes, it’s the end of the summer. Yes, it would have been cool to have that vacation come earlier. And yes, school starts in one week. Regardless of those, we’re thrilled to have him here during the day for the next little while. My little almost 3 year old is beyond pleased to wake up and have Daddy home.
Our family is classified as a “large” family. (7 KIDS!) So, my husband works outside of the home and I work in the home. Our combined efforts make everything run smoothly. Without his outside job and hard work and my inside job and hard work it wouldn’t go as smoothly as it currently does.
That being said, because he is the “bread earner” according to the world’s viewpoint and I don’t “work” (My inside the home “job” isn’t a real job, right?) we don’t go on big vacations or hardly ANY vacations, we don’t have brand new cars, we don’t have new wardrobes every year, and we don’t eat out as a family (there are other “we don’t” things as well … the list could go on). I know my kids frequently look at their friends’ lives and see them doing all the things and I have to remind them that they have 3 or 4 people in their families … not 9. There’s a difference.
We DO have a house to live in. We have running water and heat and gas in our cars and food on the table and school supplies and clothes when they’re NEEDED and we go on hikes and we eat dinner every night as a family at the table and we have wifi and books to read and we watch movies together and when someone needs something we get it. We are never bored or alone. There is always someone to do stuff with. We laugh and have fun a lot. There is crazy loud family time in abundance … we have all that we need, always.
I say this only to explain that our summer is not centered around that typical “summer vacation.” We don’t do that. We stay home. We do stuff here where we live. We took a large vacation last year and it was hard and expensive but wonderful and fun. That is not the norm for us.
So, as my husband is on “vacation” that means that we’re home together as a family. He’s here. We’re not going anywhere necessarily, but we’re here together and that IS a vacation in my book.
Yesterday we took a little jaunt over to a park, to hike close to where we live. We decided on a park we’d never been to. In looking at all the different places we could go, the requirements for me were that it must be within an hour of home – we have a little 2 year old car sick person who rides with us everywhere we go – that it had to have a bathroom – the 5 year old is notorious for needing to “go” every 30 minutes – and that there would be some sort of hike/walking involved – we need to move our bodies!
We found the perfect place. We got up in the morning, got breakfast and got everyone ready. That took about 2 hours! It’s quite the feat to get 9 people ready to go anywhere, and especially somewhere like hiking where appropriate shoes are necessary and maybe even sweatshirts need to be involved.
When we go anywhere, by the time we get in the van to leave, I’ve had to ask every person if they have the right kind of shoes on, if they’re wearing socks, if they have a sweatshirt, if they’ve gone to the bathroom, and we have to make sure we have diapers and wipes and paper towels and a puke bucket (I kid you not) and all the necessary components to make ANY trip out of our neighborhood work.
Not only is there all of that to remember, but there’s the dreaded “I want to sit here” conversation. 7 kids. 10 spots in the van. You’d think it would be easy … just pick a seat and lets’ get moving. Not so! It is tricky! This one wants to sit here, that one wants to sit there, they’ll fight if they sit next to each other, that one will scream if she doesn’t sit there … it’s tiring just thinking about it. And every time I want to roll my eyes. It’s truly one of the things that I don’t understand about kids …. why does it matter where you sit? I don’t get it. But it’s a thing apparently. And so we deal with it. Every time.
It’s so many details. I’m used to it now, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. It’s a GREAT effort to go anywhere with this many different people’s needs to consider.
I was excited as we left the driveway yesterday. I love hiking. I love being outside. I love watching my children’s faces as they see the world. It’s all very fun and lovely to me and so each time we embark on a little adventure I’m just full of anticipation.
After the fighting and seat divvying out, we left. The ride was quick. Only 25 minutes. We were driving out toward the inlet and there are lots of twists and turns and so we had 2 kids get carsick. We’ve dealt with this quite a bit though, and we were prepared. We took care of it, with not too much effort and arrived at the park. The kids jumped out, got some fresh air, and felt better almost immediately.
We had lunch. That went well. The kids played a little bit on the big toy that was there. They had fun. We visited the bathroom (this would make the 2nd time since we arrived) and then were on our way through the forest into the unknown.
The family went on in front of me because I had to wait back with one girl who had forgotten to visit the bathroom. So we were a few minutes behind. As I waited outside the bathroom and looked at the trees I took a breath of fresh air and felt the peace of letting go of all the stuff (the spots, the details, the food, the arguing, the sweatshirts, the bathroom trips). I just embraced the moment and looked around me. There was a large open area, a circular area with grass and parking and trees interspersed. There was a play area for kids and many picnic tables. And then surrounding that open area was dense green forest. A perfect circle of open space surrounded by trees. It was perfection. In fact, I told my family as we ate, that I thought we should find that exact type of property and buy it and build a house in the middle of the open space so we could be surrounded on every side by trees. I love nature and the trees always make me feel at home.
Bathroom girl came out (after I had to go in to help her wash her hands) and we hurried to the trail entrance and began our hike. The trail wound through the trees in a beautiful way. There were many trees with bending arched trunks. Some had other trees growing out of them. The forest was full of life and I could feel the energy as we hiked. At one point there was a fork in the trail and my 2 oldest were standing there waiting for us to tell us that the rest of the family went to the right. And so the four of us took the “right” trail and continued to walk. As I walked I listened to my girls laughing and pointing out things that were of interest. The 9 year old ran ahead to catch up to the rest of the family and I walked and looked and listened and felt.
Do you ever have those moments that everything is almost surreal? Like you are in a dream or something? It’s real, but it feels almost perfect, and so your mind gets this “airy” feeling and it can’t quite “classify” it as real? It’s hard to explain. It happened as I walked yesterday. I was just so very present – so IN the moment.
There wasn’t “before” (no thought of seats in the van or carsickness or bathroom breaks) there wasn’t “what’s next” (no thoughts of worrying about whatever), there was just that moment. My feet on the ground. The crunch of the leaves under my shoes. The trees blowing in the breeze. The birds and the trees creaking and the sun shining very dimly through the forest canopy and clouds above. There was the sound of my kids. The breath in my lungs as they moved in and out and supported my body walking. I saw the green of the forest and the brown of the trail and the faintly turning leaves that are signaling fall and change being near.
That moment, that spot, is presence. Just pure and clear and focused.
We made our way to the beach. This is Washington State and the inlet is a rocky shoreline with waves that come in and out. The tide was low and so the beach sprawled out beyond the forest and there were rocks and crabs and little fish that didn’t make it back into the water when the tide went out. There were herons standing just on the shoreline watching the water. There were shells and barnacle covered logs and it was a magical sight.
My 2 year old ran with delight the moment his feet were on the rocks. He smiled a huge smile and the wind blew his hair as he ran. He fell once, twice, three times … each time he got back up and beamed as he continued running. Never stopping until he reached the edge of the rocks and looked out at the water. His smile lit up the world.
I found a heart rock the moment I was on the beach. And then I kept seeing them the whole time we were there. My pockets were full and I left more ON the beach than I took with us. My kids looked at rocks and lifted them up to see little tiny crabs scampering away. They saw a geoduck and climbed a broken tree and found a little fort under the leaves of a tree that was arching over the beach.
It was magic. It was replenishing. It was a perfect “vacation.”
We didn’t go anywhere far. We weren’t gone for a long time. We didn’t see a distant land. We didn’t luxuriate in massages and coconut drinks on a beach and we certainly didn’t enjoy warm breezes and swimming in warm waters.
What did we do? We were present in the moment. We looked at the world that WAS in front of us and we loved it and adored it and appreciated it and embraced it. We experienced the magic of nature and the beauty of where we live. We joined in unity as a family and had a little adventure. Sure, it was only 25 minutes from our home, but it was another world, another perspective, and a replenishing time.
I don’t know what it would be like to travel to far away lands and see other cultures and to stay in beautiful places and have that kind of life. I haven’t had that life. I don’t know that life.
I do have this life though. And I think it’s beautiful. I embrace what is mine with wholeheartedness. There is NOTHING lacking here. Does it look different than what a great number of others would classify as abundant and amazing? Probably. I don’t really care about how others see this life. Sure, many have asked me how I have 7 kids and why and I’ve seen horrified looks and raised eyebrows as I’ve said that this is what I’ve chosen. (yes, I did choose this willingly) But you know what? I DO love it. It is hard. It is challenging. There are times that I look at those lives of Mexico trips and cruises and time alone and wish I could have that. But mostly? I love what I have. I enjoy my children. I am FULL, to overflowing, with love and light and joy. Full.
We don’t do go on big vacations. We don’t stay in expensive hotels and have beach relaxation moments. We don’t drink coconut drinks and have dancing nights out and we don’t fly on airplanes to exotic places and see the world. Right now that is not my life.
We DO love each other. We eat good food and laugh a lot. We smile and joke around and hug and the 9 of us lie on our king sized bed and talk and have fun frequently. We hike and walk in nature and look at the world around us with wonder and awe. We watch movies together. We talk about life and how to be healthy and strong. We teach our kids to embrace who they are and to allow all others to do the same. We enjoy each other. Many times a day all 9 of us are all in one little room just because we love being around each other. We sing and play music and dance and smile. We clean and organize and do laundry a lot too.
This life is full. This life is beautiful. I wouldn’t call it “glamorous” by any means, but I would call it fulfilling and I would certainly claim “joy” as my overall theme.
Joy. This life is about joy. I embrace the joy in every mundane moment. And I see it in every tiny minute detail. It is ever present and ever abundant.
So – my “moral” of the story: I believe I have discovered the meaning of life. The meaning of life is that in what you’re doing, whatever it is, find the joy. Being present in the moment is the doorway to that joy. It is available to you every moment. It doesn’t mean you’re always happy-go-lucky … it just means you’re present in whatever is and you accept it with a full heart.
And that is the point I guess … my heart is full. And because I know that is possible in every circumstance, I understand that yours can be too in whatever you’re doing. You have the power to see your life in whatever perspective you choose.
Acknowledge your power and choose wisely.