The Matter of When

It’s really dark right now. I’m wrapped in a blanket, because we like to keep the air set at Arctic Tundra during the nighttime hours, and I desperately long for a cup of coffee, but the coffee pot is loud, so I’m forcing myself to wait until a more reasonable time so that I don’t wake sleeping children.

Because waking a child before she’s ready is akin to waking a sleeping bear – you just don’t do it.

I really wish I was still in my bed. I love my bed. It’s comfortable, soft, warm, and I don’t spend enough time there. But I pulled myself from the covers this morning long before the sun peeked over the horizon because this is my when.

Fitting me-time into our busy days is a challenge, especially as we near the end of summer. I desperately want to be present during these last few days, but I also desperately want to escape, because end of summer brings extra drama.

They are tired of one another, and of me. And I am, quite frankly, tired of them. Days have fallen into one long battle as I war against wanting to let them just sit in front of the TV and do nothing, and forcing them to play outside because they’re turning into little zombies.

This is generally the time of year when I convince myself that hours of screen time is actually good for them. Those hours of the day spent on Minecraft, FIFA World Cup, MLB Baseball for Play Station, and all the movies and TV shows they’re watching are molding and shaping them into the beautiful minds that will lead our future. Boom!

I am a good mom.


Despite these obvious parenting successes I’m having, I am trying to engage and be fully in the moment, but there’s also work to be done, and the work is my breathing space. If I don’t tap into it now and again, I get antsy, frustrated even. So I have to find the when in order to engage the part of my brain, and my soul, that needs these breathing moments of solitude.

This is a common feeling for all mothers. Especially this time of year. Whether moms work inside or outside the home, we all long for that breathing space – the place where we can disengage from the motherly work, and reengage with the parts of ourselves that were there before children.

I think back to three years ago, at the height of my blogging “career,” and I wonder what kind of crack I was smoking that allowed me to blog every single day. How did I do that?! Where did I find that time?

Then I remember that the kids were younger, we didn’t have a fourth baby, I wasn’t under contract to write two books, my husband didn’t travel weekly, and life was a little less complicated. There was some natural breathing room in our daily routine, which has since been siphoned off steadily until you find me now.

Huddled under a blanket while the sun laughs at me from beneath the horizon.

Even as I type these words, I hear the baby making her wake up sounds. Intermittent cries with a little babbling mixed in assaults the reverie of this silent morning, and remind me that this is the nature of this season of my life. It’s noisy, and it’s hectic. As soon as little feet hit the floor it’s 90-nothing until the sun sets back down again.

So I sneak the solitude in when I can, and I do the things that fill me with joy. Books, writing, blogging. A little here, a little there. And somehow it’s working.

The manuscript for my novel is turned in for edits.

Wendy and I are now refining our joint book, the messages slowly coming together to form a beautiful, cohesive encouragement to moms like us – artistic moms who are clawing their way to the art in the cracks of their day.

I’m getting at least one blog a week up. That feels like a monumental win these days!

It’s not perfect, this system of mine. But this isn’t the season of life to strive for perfection. If the kids are dressed and fed, then I consider it a good day.

And by dressed and fed, I mean they have clothes on (Oh, those shorts are way too small for you? Just..whatever), and they’ve eaten food (Cold, leftover pizza for breakfast? Just…whatever).

How are you doing, moms? How do you fit in your when? And are you kids eating genuine meals, or are you just pretending that pretzels dipped in ranch is an actual lunch like me?

The Secret Garden

I was young, maybe nine or ten, when I first saw The Secret Garden. Upon finishing the film, I immediately traipsed out into the Wisconsin woods behind our home and looked for the perfect tree in which to sit and read. The trees were romantic and mysterious then. I wanted to soak up the rustle of the woods and see what kind of magic I could find.


I grew up, and we moved away from Wisconsin. No longer did I have the whimsy of the forest in which to explore my imagination, but the fanciful longing for a secret garden has never really left me. And I still find a sturdy branch the best place to read a book.

In college, I found a great tree with a low lying limb tucked back in Waco’s Cameron Park. On pretty spring days, before the oppressive Texas heat threatened to melt off my face, I’d go to that tree with school books, certain that studying in that place would result in all A’s.

There may have been something to my theory, because my last two semesters of school I landed on the Dean’s List.

And now here I am, living in Florida, surrounded by beautiful trees, but not one worthy of a good climb. I still wish for a secret garden to call my own – a place where dreams come alive in the quiet serenity of nature.

Granted, I’d probably need a gardner to tend to that magical space as I’ve proven to be much better at writing about gardens than growing them.

Dreaming is possible without a garden, though. Sometimes I still find myself lost in a moment of daydreaming, although those moments are fewer and farther between now than they were before. Life has simply grown too noisy and busy. And it makes me a little sad that my kids aren’t growing up with the whimsy of the trees.

The last couple of weeks have found me in a funny place: Often sad for no reason, and terribly overwhelmed in situations that don’t normally phase me. I’m blaming hormones, the end of summer, and a lack of quiet.

The funny thing, however, is that I don’t want to be alone. I want my husband and children with me, which seems to contradict my longing for quiet spaces. I long to escape, yes, but to a place where there are no sports, no schedules, and no electronics to distract us.

I want to kick those kids outside and see them explore.

I want them to climb a few trees.

School starts in two weeks, and while I feel a sigh of relief escape my lips as I type that sentence, I also feel a small pang of regret and sadness, because it’s over. One more under our belts, and life keeps trucking along without sign of slowing down.

I don’t have a secret garden in which to sit and reflect, and the quiet spaces I long for are likely mythological. But I’ve discovered over the years that these moments of overwhelmed a lot-ness (totally a word) are not the be all-end all.

There may not be magical stretches of quiet time, but there are slivers of time that are magical enough.

We kept all electronics off last night, and the kids went for a swim as the sun sank down below the horizon. I sat in a chair next to the pool, and I just watched them play.

I listened to the hallowed sounds of their laughter, taking in all the sounds, none of them quiet, yet the entire event feeling like a hushed song of praise. We were in the moment, all of us. Them in the pool, and me taking it in, and I knew that this was the moment I was longing for.

A moment to just be free.

A moment that says “This is enough.”

A moment in which I could breathe.

I was happy last night, despite my lack of a tree, a book, and a magical garden. Maybe someday there will be a time and a place for that sort of living again. Today, though – today was for popsicles and blue waters. Today was for giggles and flips in the pool. Today was magical with just a touch of whimsy.

Turns out the secret garden was here with me all along.

Tell me moms – how are you doing as summer winds down and school days ramp back up? How are you holding up? 

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