Here we are at the end of another summer, and I can feel the transition to fall coming. The days are getting a little shorter, the pumpkins in our garden are starting to turn orange, we received the back -to-school calendar from Tacoma School district last week, the Celtic Faire planning is underway and at work, the back-to-school sports physicals are filling up my schedule. I can’t help but always feel a little nostalgic at the end of every summer and this one is no exception, perhaps even more than usual, due to the events of the past year and a half. In Spring of 2019, in the early stages of the pandemic, we made the decision to pull our oldest daughter from school 1 week before Spring break and had planned to home school her for the rest of the year. This decision was completely unrelated to the pandemic and we thought it would be a piece of cake. Then suddenly, ALL the schools were closed and our son was also sent home from school. At the same time, I was pregnant with our third baby and expecting to give birth sometime in mid-June. A month or so after the school shutdown, yet another surprise hit us when she arrived almost 6 weeks early, giving us a bit of a shock with her dramatic entrance. Since then, apart from my part-time return to work last fall, we’ve all been home together. No return to school in the fall for either of the older two kids, no time with just the new baby as we had planned, no new career for my husband, Jordan. If I’m being honest, it’s been intense. Having 3 kids at home all the time is really exhausting and at times, quite overwhelming. Time alone or time with just my spouse sometimes feels unattainable. It can feel never-ending. But then when I look back at the time we have all spent together as a family I can’t help but feel secretly grateful that we’ve all been forced to be stuck at home together for the last 18 months. Sure, I’ve missed lots of things, (in-person church for one, it feels so good to be back to seeing so many of you face to face!) but Jordan and I have been able to spend more time thanever before with our children. We’ve always worked really hard to keep our children out of daycare so for much of our marriage, Jordan and I have worked opposite shifts and/opposite days which led to few days off all together as a family. With all of us at home for this time we’ve had so many special shared experiences. Sylas and Ewen have seen their baby sister grow and change, right before their eyes. They saw her take her first steps, heard her first words, take her first bites of foods – all things they likely would not have experienced had they been back in school full-time last fall. Jordan and I have also experienced these milestones together, something we didn’t get to do with our other children.

As some of you probably already know, I tend to be a very busy person. I have lots of hobbies and love to learn new things. This time at home has really forced me to slow down. I remember as a kid, our wall calendar was always full to the brim with activities- from dance and swimming lessons for my sister and I, to PTA meetings and belly dance dance troupe for my mom, music lessons as I got older and Camp Fire meetings every week for all of us. We were frequently on the go! One thing that stands out to me in my memory though is that summer was a time to slow down. I cherished my summers at home with my family. Things just slowed down, we paused most lessons and meetings, we played outside every day, made cookies and went camping, we just spent time together as a family – we were forced to take it easy. Those summers feel a lot like the last 18 months – no sports or lessons outside the house and instead countless backyard sibling playtimes, lots of gardening, baking, cooking, reading and knitting – we’re all just moving at a different pace. There have been, and continue to be, many difficult things about this pandemic, but I think the forced slowdown is the thing I am most grateful for. I realized the other day that this is likely the only time in my children’s lives that all of them will spend this much time together as a family. Their ages are quite spread out, Sylas is 10, Ewen is 6 and Ellowyn just past a year old. Never again will we spend a whole year together at home like we have! So despite the intensity of having us all home together, realizing it’s coming to an end with the end of this summer is especially bittersweet. I’m excited for the kids to return to school, for Ewen to start kindergarten and Sylas to enter into “Upper El” (elementary) at their wonderful Montessori school and for Ellowyn to get to spend some one-on-one time with her parents. There is a part of me that can’t wait to have the kids go back to school but then there is another part that never wants this time to end. So as we all head off into the fall, I’m doing my best to continue to slow down and remember the incredible gift I’ve been given.

I think the thing I’m learning is also that it’s ok to feel both – it’s ok to be excited about the kids returning to school and also be sad about this time together coming to an end; it’s ok to enjoy online church service at home in my pjs but also miss being in person; it’s ok to grieve what we’ve lost during this pandemic but also be joyful about the time we’ve gained with our families. The farther I move forward with my life, the more I have to come to realize that things are rarely black or white (despite my desire for them to sometimes be that way!), it seems like we’re often in the gray and I’m learning to be more comfortable with that. Here’s to living a life of varying shades of all the colors! 🙂

Vestry Viewpoint by Devyn Cameron