Folding Laundry ~ Time for Reflection

 

clothesline-804812_1920

Laundry ~ it’s the never-ending chore that is always staring us in the face as parents. The dirty clothes pile up, we tackle the mountain waiting to be attended to in the laundry room, get every article of clothing folded nicely and put away in its proper place. And then… the cycle starts all over again.

Most times, when I am doing laundry for myself and my family, I feel the annoyance festering inside of me and I notice myself thinking the same thing: that I just cannot fathom how so many dirty clothes multiply so quickly. And that I am tired of doing laundry.

Today, however, I actually slowed down with my actions and thoughts as I was folding a load of laundry that consisted of my two daughter’s clothing. My first thought was that it was cool how my older, 7-year-old daughter’s clothing all reflects her own personality and style now.  This single thought led me to ponder childhood ~ our own children’s childhoods ~ and how quickly they grow up and become new versions of themselves over and over again.

I know that this is a commonly expressed notion ~ that children grow up too fast and we must stop to appreciate them for who they are now, in this moment, in this current version of themselves. But… sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of these basic but profound realities of life.

As human beings, our time in these forms and experiencing these specific lives is so brief and fleeting in the grand scheme of the universe and evolution. We must not get so caught up in the day to day business of routines, activities and obligations that we forget to slow down and focus on what truly matters to us in our lives.

As I continued to fold my children’s clothing, it also occurred to me that these garments are the physical material that cover, protect and envelope my children as they interact with the world and experience their own lives. Their precious bodies are held in these articles of clothing, and I wash, dry and fold them as an act of love, care and reverence. This laundry that I do is an extension of my own physical form that wants to hold on to my growing children and preserve the versions of them that I can no longer experience firsthand.

mother-1507564_1920

This profound experience I had while folding laundry helped me to reconnect to the practice of engaging in meditative work. Tasks such as doing the laundry, washing the dishes, sweeping the floor ~ they all provide an outlet for rhythmic, repetitive motions, which aids the human being in coming to a restful place within. I relished in this moment.

My mentality regarding laundry has also helped me to shift my own perspective on what it means to provide my toddler with the opportunity to participate in household work. She is around a lot of the time when I am folding and putting laundry away. She is drawn to the activity and clearly wants to contribute to the process. Rather than discouraging her or trying to distract her with a different activity, I allow her to “help” me. It is so much easier in the long run to just let her take clothes out of the basket (even if they are clean), drag them around the house, or pass them to me to fold. She even mimics my motion of shaking out an article of clothing prior to folding it. It is so inspiring and touching to take notice of these developmental, human aspects of her drive to integrate into her environment.

As parents and educators of young children, we must do our best to create ways for our children to be active members of any household activity that goes on in the home on a regular basis. These small beings are doing what they are biologically “programmed” to do: explore, engage and do what they observe other human beings doing as a way to adapt to their world. Let us not discourage this naturally unfolding process but rather, provide outlets for our children to be and do what is essential to a holistic development and harmonious integration into this experience known as human life.

blue-1283078_1920

Yard Sales & Lemonade Stands

c8va0wim0r

My family and I organized a yard sale a few weeks ago in an effort to minimize the amount of material clutter in our home. It is incredible to me how much stuff continually accumulates in our living spaces — despite being somewhat fastidious about maintaining a systematic, aesthetically pleasing home. Oh, stuff… how you elude me with your mysteriously multiplying ways.

Our 7-year-old daughter was more than just interested in helping out with preparations for the yard sale. She also wanted to create a lemonade stand as an additional attraction. I encouraged her enthusiasm and decided to display some of my handmade jewelry pieces in addition to the various toys, puzzles, books and small appliances we were hoping would find new homes. I also felt inspired to paint and decorate some fun, reusable yard sale signs as a way to integrate my own creativity into this Saturday event.

The morning of our yard sale & lemonade stand arrived and we were all set to go. My daughter made the jug of lemonade herself and prepared all of the necessary items like cups, her sign, a small money box. We walked around the neighborhood and hung our signs. We were open for business.

It was slow going. People would come by the house in waves, it seemed… which was interesting to me. I knew that it wasn’t going to be constantly swarming with people, as we live a bit off the closest main road. And that was okay. It was enjoyable, actually. It was amusing to me to watch how my daughter would interact or… not interact with the different people who stopped by to check things out. I was engaged with people in a completely different way than what I am typically accustomed to, and it felt refreshing and also… kind of weird. But weird in a good way.

There was one guy who came to look around who didn’t speak English (we live in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood). He looked at my jewelry for a good 10 minutes, then proceeded to a small shelf of antiques I had set out. He picked up this old hand mixer utensil made from wood and metal. He stood there for nearly 5 minutes rotating the handle, watching the mixer spin around and around and smiling at the sound of the revolving metal. I was certain that he would purchase this hand mixer, as his piqued interest was clearly obvious. Alas, he purchased nothing in the end… which was fine! The experience of watching him interact with the hand mixer was worth so much more than the $5 I was asking for it.

We had a box on display that was full of new, unopened device covers that my husband had somehow acquired last year sometime. I think we had priced the covers at $2 each. What was so interesting to me about this particular box was that every single person who walked through the yard sale looked extensively at these device covers and yet… not one of them was sold. Funny…

My daughter sold a few cups of lemonade, mostly to our sweet elderly neighbors who came over to pay homage to our efforts and purchase some items both out of necessity and just simple kindness. The woman who lives across the street from us is in her late 70s and we chat with her occasionally if we happen to be outside at the same time. She came over to say hello, buy a cup of lemonade and visit for a bit. She saw that I was selling a small pitcher and bowl set that had been my grandmother’s. It is a beautiful little set, but it had been sitting in a box for years and – realistically – it is not something that I need to keep. Our neighbor insisted that she purchase it in order to save it for me for someday after “she is gone.” Being from a different generation with different principles surrounding sentimental objects, I found it touching that she would make this sort of gesture on my behalf.

The day progressed and the visitors followed a rhythmic ebb and flow pattern. We sold some things, some others remained complacently awaiting someone to notice them and take them home. Even objects of high interest can’t always find a new taker. And I cannot force myself to be a keeper in the interest of buffering the feelings of a lovely, but albeit, unnecessary inanimate object.

pink-lemonade-795030_1920

The point I really want to make here is this:

If you have children who are old enough to participate in and understand the process of hosting a yard sale and/or lemonade stand, working together to organize this kind of experience is a fascinating endeavor and one I would not pass up. It’s not like we have to have a yard sale every other weekend or even every month. It could even be a one-time special event for your family. The opportunity to interact with people on this kind of level and for your children to observe and participate in these unique exchanges is an amazing learning affair.

Organizing any sort of small, family-oriented, neighborhood event is an outstanding way to help your children integrate the principles of community, responsibility, social and monetary exchange, entrepreneurship and mathematics into their development… all of which are significant in becoming successfully integrated into one’s surroundings.

My own dream is to someday have a garden large enough and time enough to open a neighborhood-farm produce and product stand. I envision my children, husband and myself working together as a team to share the fruits of our labor with the people living around us — even if we do not speak their language. And maybe make a small, supplemental income in the process. Or better yet… maybe inspire change on a small level by being an advocate for community, neighborhood partnerships and bringing back a certain way of social interaction that has gone missing from too many other avenues in our modern society.

es1jj1ri3i

 

Finding the Beauty in the Mess

757FV5V0AC

On some late afternoons, I find myself looking around at the various living spaces in our home and wondering how messes continually manifest throughout every area of our simple dwelling. I am certain that I include decluttering, organizing and general clean-up of our home in my daily routine. So then… where does all of this stuff come from? And, if it all has its own place in our home, why is it all so often spread out over every surface throughout every room?

Because ~ we live here.

We make use of the things we have. And young children have a more difficult time in fully understanding or appreciating the principles of concise organization and orderly spaces.

Putting things away is like working on an extravagant, three-dimensional puzzle. A puzzle that is a never-ending brain teaser. You get one step closer to thinking you have it solved and then… wow. There’s another random pile of kitchen items lying in this corner over here.

INAKF0ZV5X

But, I want my kids to explore. I want my kids to be able to just BE and experience what it is to investigate their living environment. I want them to have the opportunity to feel the presence of these materials items we have chosen to become a reflection of our inner selves.

I also want my kids to learn the importance of organizing one’s space and respecting one’s belongings. So ~ sometimes my perspective on the mess shifts towards a more urgent need to clean things up and make an orderly sense out of our living spaces.

It is a back and forth kind of dance — this relationship with material items, the messes they can become and how we relate to the messes. I see evidence of my younger daughter’s developmental need to gather, sort, deconstruct and move objects from one place to another in these scattered messes. I see affirmation of my older daughter’s love for her books and toys when I go into her room and notice that her things are spread all over her bed and desk.

A lot of the messes are actually my own. I find proof of my creative energy and desire to learn in my paints and brushes, books and papers that lie scattered across the kitchen table and counters.

These messes are made because these children, along with myself, are living here. We are interacting with our environment and developing and maintaining relationships with the tangible aspect of our beings.

So yes, a mess can be a beautiful thing. I suppose it all comes down to what frame of mind I carry within myself on any given day. Or how I choose to respond to how the objects around me are arranged, whether neat and tidy or in complete disarray.

No matter what perspective I see the mess from, however, I will continue to do my best to be at peace with the clutter.

8SC8KCA0GN

 

 

Strawberries from the Garden

0CB280F646

My 20-month-old daughter and I were in our backyard one afternoon, enjoying the more moderate end-of-summer temperatures that were gracing us that day. We grow strawberry plants in our back yard, so I was searching through the foliage for any ripe berries that might be ready to pick and eat.

It is such a magnificent sensory experience to pluck a ripe strawberry and eat it straight from the plant. The sweet, warm flavor of the berry’s juices spreading over your tongue can transport you to a utopian universe — even if for only a brief moment.

I happened upon a particularly crimson patch of berries and felt like I had uncovered some long lost relic from an ancient time. My daughter was busily playing on the other side of the yard with her outdoor kitchen set-up. I called over to her: “Evelyn! I found some ripe strawberries! Come and see!”

She came trotting over in her toddler-like way, interested in whatever marvel I had discovered amongst the foliage. I showed her the pretty red berries and said: “These are strawberries!” I carefully plucked one off the vine and passed it to my daughter.

“Ooo! You can eat the strawberry, Evelyn! Try it, it’s really yummy.” I encouraged her to partake in the berry’s fine gustatory offerings.

She popped the strawberry into her little mouth and chewed. As she experienced the pure, alive flavors of the fruit’s essence, she nodded her head in determined approval and presented her most serious, furrowed-brow expression. She was concentrating so completely on the sensory pleasure of the berry’s flavor.

Having the opportunity to watch my daughter enjoy a strawberry that was grown in our own backyard, straight from its source, filled me with a magical sort of gratification. It was this perfect moment – complete in and of itself – in which my daughter was fully connected to her genuine, beautiful humanness and her connection to our earth.

The soul and the physical body merge when we allow ourselves to slow down and make manifest the interrelation of our physical experiences and our inner, more quiet processes. There is an authentic grace inherent in observing a small child engaged – even if unconsciously – in this interplay of the tangible and the soulful.

naturalchild

 

We, as parents and teachers, must create – even protect – opportunities in which our children can just be. Even though I was the one who beckoned my daughter over to the patch of ripe strawberries, once she discovered what the berries were and how she could pick them and eat them, I left her to her own devices to just be.

We were outside together a few days later, enjoying another mild late-summer day. I was sitting on the patio and Evelyn was wandering around the backyard, exploring this and that. I watched as she meandered over to the strawberry plants. My heart filled with a passionate gratitude as I observed her going about the business of searching for any ripe berries to pick and enjoy. I just sat and watched and let her be.

By observing young children and their engaged manner of interacting with their surroundings, we can learn what it is to live openly and united with our source of life energy. It is all around us, all the time. These small humans can show us how to reconnect with this essence of our beings. It is rather magnificent.

We also must reserve space in which we, ourselves, can slow down and become more mindful of our own integrated experiences throughout the evolution of our days and evenings. We all have the potential to understand ourselves and the world around us more fully. Finding this connection between the physical and “other” realms of our existence helps us live more genuinely, passionately and compassionately.

 

QXX392MDGW