This morning I scraped the frost off the windshield with the most promising tool I could find, which was a package of baby wipes. I don't recommend it; Frances just barely got to school on time because of my futile scratching. Later Gabriel and I hit Ballocity, a multi-tiered padded indoor playground featuring many balls that shoot out of various contraptions accompanied by the startling sound of loud rushing air. One walks the line between fun and nightmare in there, but since it was just us (and we knew when the loud noises were coming), the mood was light and fun. Perfect for shooting purple and yellow balls across the room!
At one point I was gathering little balls on the main floor and inserting them into a shallow hammock I made by pulling up the bottom of my shirt. The idea was to cart them up more efficiently to the top level, where Gabriel and the pretend machine guns were waiting. This technique exposed my soft belly and I felt just a little ridiculous when a suited and tied silver-haired dad walked in with his kids just as I ran past, clutching my lumpy midsection.
How gloriously normal it all was. Jiggety-jig!
Not that time spent with family and friends in Lancaster wasn't delightful. It was. But there was a moment last week when the sibling rivalry was at an unprecedented fevered pitch, the whining was at ear-bleeding levels, and the acting out was out of control. That's when it occurred to me that perhaps even fun departures from routine are stressful for our kids. Enough with the spontaneous friends and ice cream and videos. All the holiday indulgence and togetherness was freaking them out.
And so yesterday, back in Annapolis, we did regular things. I made pancakes for breakfast. After church I set the kid table up outside in the warm sun while Mike and I raked. Sometimes the kids helped with the leaves, but mostly they became quietly busy with their own imaginative projects - like creating a new boardgame called Winners of Walengie.
Like so many things, I have been letting my children take responsibility for the fact that this whole routine business turns out to be something I am deeply attached to. I complain about how very confining the kids can be, slaves to their daily rhythms. But I feel so good to be home, doing our regular home things, shifting into a new season together. The leaves have finally fallen, a chill is in the air, and the advent calendar has returned to its place on the kitchen door.
Last year, I stopped at 7. Over the weekend I embroidered us up to 12!)
But upon this return, I am realizing with gratitude that it's actually not worse. Different, yes. But this unexpected sojourn of mostly stay-at-home surburban motherhood has its perks. Like an after-school walk in the eerily beautiful woods that run up to and touch the South River at Quiet Waters Park with friends today. Like a ridiculous kid yoga session featuring such entertaining asanas as mouse pose, digger pose, and baking-in-the-oven pose. Like this blog, a project I never would have begun had I not been in this strange new place, scratching my head, trying not to cry, and wondering how I might enlist my far-flung friends' help in making it all okay.
It worked. Thank you, readers. It is okay. I'm still finding my way, that is certain. But within my days, blessedly bound by routine and ritual, I find small moments of joy that are no less intense for the regularity of their occurence.
When I listened to Frances describe the future on our walk yesterday, it struck me how this environment that still carries a strangeness for me has become completely hers. When she thinks herself into the future, it is happening here. This is her landscape now, and she's helping to make it mine, too.
What a gift it is to discover that it feels good to be home.