Sunday, May 13, 2018

Connections


Well, hello!
I am Sarah Burke. I’m a wife and mother. I like to keep journals, read English literature, spend time in nature, and can almost kayak as fast as my thirteen-year-old son. My husband, Jason, keeps me grounded and is an incredible example to me of someone who is always looking for opportunities to serve. Our five children: Tanner (16 years old), Andrew (13), Margaret (10), Nathan (6), and Gabe (3), keep both Jason and I from ever growing complacent.

Building connections.
As I have pondered writing this blog post, with the theme of my experiences with motherhood at it’s core, I have kept coming back to the idea of connections. To me, family and the gospel is all about connections to others: my husband, my individual children, and most importantly with my Heavenly Father and with my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I am excited for this blog, and what I hope will become a venue for all of us to become a little more connected. Please respond and comment! There are few things I enjoy more than learning about what works for others. I think we could have some wonderful exchanges of ideas on here.

Trading routines for meaningful moments.
In this season of my life, it is actually hard for me to imagine not being connected to my family- as in physically connected! Most hours of the day, and sometimes night, I have at least one of my children with me. I help dress, feed, and clean my little guys. I help my middle children read, study, and practice. I attempt to stay up late enough to talk through my oldest child’s schedule. From sun up, until sun down, I am rarely alone. All of those things are good and important, but they can easily become just routines. 
I know from experience that I can fall into the pattern of making sure immediate needs are meet, but not really taking the time for eye-to-eye moments. These moments usually require just a little more time and effort. It may mean that I get on eye level with my toddler and make sure to give him a sincere “Good Morning!” That small act alone can make him feel inside, that I am glad to be with him. It may mean that I take the time to sit next to my kindergartener while he is reading, and tell him how much he has improved this year. A heartfelt phrase can give him some pride in his growing ability. Maybe it means slowing down enough to braid my daughter’s hair and discuss her day, so that she knows that I truly care about how she feels and what she thinks. Perhaps I can make a difference in my teenage son’s evening, by listening to the music he is researching, downloading and trying to learn. It doesn’t matter that our tastes are different, I just want to have a discussion with him about what he likes. That can be a hard thing to do with a teenager, but when I show interest in his preferences, he almost always opens up and shares. It might mean inviting a houseful of high school boys over, so that my teenager realizes, that I care who his friends are. 
None of these acts are huge, but I believe that they can make a big difference in my family and how understood and loved we feel. When I consciously try to connect, my goal changes from checking things off of my daily to-do list, to showing an individual that I care. 

Finding common ground.
Almost exactly a year ago, Jason and I moved our family to a small farm.  The word farm may be an aggrandizement, though. We basically have some land, which we love. We don’t produce much yet, unless children and messes count!?  But we choose to live here to provide our family with the opportunity to be closely in tune with nature.  And so far, it is working. We have tripled the time our children spend outside, and we consider the move to be a success.
Instead of more television or devices, we have encouraged fresh air and dirt.  My goal as a mother here is to allow this land and environment to make a mark on each of us.  It can change a person to star gaze on warm evenings, to have races with siblings around the pond, to create names for all of our special family landmarks here. (Our tree swings are on a little hilltop named Epiphany Point. If you ask me why, I’ll gladly tell you.) We are intentionally using this experience to help us transform our family. It is our common ground. 

Why? Besides the beauty, which makes me happy every day, Jason and I want to have these shared experiences of life on this small farm to tie us together. Someday in the future, we will all look back and hopefully remember our experiences here fondly. We will laugh about all the things we had to quickly learn when we moved here, like what to do when the lawnmower slides into the mud around the pond (Don’t try to reverse out, it will only get worse and slide into the water!). We will never forget what happens when someone finds an abandoned goose egg and puts it on top of a hot rock, so that everyone can see it. It heats up and explodes!! We won't forget that smell either! 
These experiences and our retelling of them are creating our family stories and legends. I hope we laugh about and retell them for years and years. It doesn't really matter where we live or what our common ground is, what matters is that we try to identify it and make it special. 

Let’s talk about it!
~What is a shared activity that is special to your family? Is it a vacation spot, spending time together at sporting events, baking cookies with grandparents?

~How do you find time for meaningful moments with your family members?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Musings from the rocking chair.

This morning I rocked Gabriel prior to his first nap of the day. As we sat in the low light of the morning and swayed back and forth, we each sighed and let our bodies soften into one another. He slowly relaxed his grip on his board book and let his body go to a place of comfort. That can be a hard thing for a 17 month old toddler to do. I leaned back into the rocking chair and let my mind wonder.

In my fourteen years of mothering, I have spent countless hours holding and rocking my children. Some have been hours of tears and worry. Many of have been hours of fatigue and half-sleep. Some painful, others restful. A blessed many have been full of contentment. The brand of contentment that comes from doing what is meaningful, even when it is not easy. So many hours that I wouldn't trade for anything.

These moments with each of my five children have left their mark on my memory. Tanner loved a simple Winnie-the-Pooh book and would chortle out loud when I buzzed a make-believe bee to life, straight from Pooh's honey pot, and tried to sting him each night. Then we settled down with a few familiar lullabies and finally a prayer. Thus a routine of comfort and love was born.

Its a simple routine. A pattern that has shifted with each of my children's differing needs, but that has remained the same in it essence. We read. We sing. We pray.

Andrew could have been rocked all night and been happy. I read less to him and sang and hummed much more. His chubby fingers twirled my long hair as we both drifted off to light sleep. I would rouse with a tangled braid of hair and gently unknot his fingers from the plait. Then I tip-toed to his crib with the prayer that this might be the night when he would finally sleep.

My sweet singular girl was a joy to rock. Margaret was content with her story, her silky blanket and her song each time. We would read in the pink glow that only a long-awaited-daughter's nursery has. She cuddled her silky and learned to lull herself to sleep by running her hands along its ruffled edges. Her song was always Teach Me to Walk in the Light. 

Nathan was our baby. He seemed to belong to the whole family. He was born a decade after our first and we were certain he would be our last. So everybody read to him, held him, prayed for him. We gathered our whole family into his nursery and talked about our day in hushed tones as he settled down each evening. We all watched as the energy of the day drifted away.  Then all would pray together those sweet prayers of childhood and quietly leave as he calmed, and then swayed in the rocker and then went to sleep.

And then sweet Gabriel surprised us all. Amongst the rushing to and from basketball, ballet and violin lessons he decided to join our family. Gabe has reminded me to slow down. We still read (Goodnight Moon)  and sing (Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)  and pray, but this pattern that was once a routine I clung to for sanity has transformed into a tranquil escape. It is precious to me as only a fleeting thing can be.

I see the end of my hours in the rocking chair coming. This summer will be the end of morning naps. Then in a matter of months, my last baby won't need to be rocked before he drifts off. So while it lasts, I am going to love these moments. I am going to choose to be present as his breaths slow and his weight settles in my arms and his eye lashes close against his round cheeks.

And of course, I am going to pray. Pray for me. That I will not ever forget these sweet hours I have have consecrated to my children.

Intentions

I remember that shortly after Tanner was born and when I was a young mother, in every sense of the word, a well-meaning relative remarked to me, "Well Sarah, you just haven't found your niche yet." Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to reply, "Actually, I have!"
You see, being a mother is something I have always strived to do with intention. A full-time mom. A stay-at-home-mom. A purposeful mom. Its more than a season of life.
Even when I was new to this, I knew. I knew that motherhood was not something I could casually attempt. I knew that it was going to require all of me, in order to do it well. And it has.
This life choice has required my mind, my heart, my attention. In its path it has left behind bits of well-earned wisdom, a deeper heart with a much increased capacity to love, and the knowledge that I made the right choice when I decided to devote my life to serving these people that are my family.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just an ordinary day.

Gabriel eating some sweet potatoes straight from Grandma's garden. Yum!

We have settled into a fairly smooth schedule for this fall.  Our older three are of course at school most of the day, and at least for now we have limited after school activities. Which leaves me with a little breathing room (hence the attempt to post on here:) and some one-on-one time with my two little boys. Nathan is in Pre-K and loves the idea of finally going to school with the big kids.  This has been a big adjustment for him, but one that we were both ready for. His class is a little under 3 hours long each morning. When he comes home he is full of reports about the playground, songs, and the other kids. 
As a result of all his big siblings attending school, Gabriel has a routine nap schedule and I am sane again. Summers are wonderful for spending time together, but not so great for infant nap schedules.  This fall has been a welcomed relief. 

Nathan still loves to help wash dishes.





TRY

I can not even imagine having this blog up to date. That is too much of a job to comprehend right now. However, I recently read over some old posts and am hugely grateful that they exist. The small details that they capture are moments from our family's history preserved. How quickly time erases fleeting habits, schedules, nicknames. Even trials and challenges are somehow gone from my mind with the passing of days. And because I fully realize that my full, busy, chaotic days will at some point be just memories, I have to try.
 Some for the next bit, I am just going to try.
Not everything can be captured on camera, because my hands are full of a sweet baby boy and his quicker than lightening big brother. These hands are busy driving and cooking and helping and holding. Photos will not be edited. Descriptions will be short.
But they will exist!!
I have to try!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Happy Birthday Tanner



He keeps growing!
 This past year has been full of so many wonderful things and accomplishments for Tanner:
-A great big brother (now to 4) and example in our family.
-An example to his Burke and McMullin cousins, all 24 of them.
-Advanced in Boys Scouts to the rank of Life.
-Actively involved in ALL young men activities at church (it helps that his Dad is the President).
-A diligent Deacon class president at church.
-Is learning his second instrument; saxophone.
-Inducted into Beta Club and competed at State convention.
-Won honors for Calisthenics for the Mind.
-Competed in Scholar Bowl, his team placed 2nd in the region.
-Science Fair Project won at school level, regional level and earned Gold at State.
-High Honors recipient at school.
-Continues to master his fear of public speaking.
-Held large role in school Drama production, "Unplugged".
-Loves to play soccer, swim, run, exercise, baseball and football with cousins.
-He truly wants to do what is right!
If his first year of being a teenager is an indicator of things to come, we will take it!

On way to school with his traditional doughnuts for his homeroom class.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Pizza Friday

Pizza is a Friday tradition in our family. Quatros, Papa Johns, Dominos- We love them all. Dear to my heart though is our homemade version. Margaret and I whipped some up last week.

Gabe isn't quite ready to eat it yet, but he can still get in on some of our Friday night fun.




So glad that I get to spend my time with these people.