“How do I stop defining myself as overwhelmed?”

Melissa asked this question five minutes ago in slack (one of an absurd number of platforms our team uses to communicate), but it’s been in my head for at least five years. My two basic moods are overwhelmed and asleep. Lindsey chimed in “fragmented” which is a piece (ha!) of overwhelm that fits pretty well for me, too.

We’re at a barbecue in my parents’ back yard, the first such gathering after quarantine. My dad is manning the grill, my mom, sister, and brother-in-law are sitting in camp chairs around the firepit. Marshmallows will be roasted (and incinerated) later, but right now, all the food is out, we’re just waiting for meat so we can pray and eat. It’s a gorgeous day—75 and clear. Andrew is lounging in the hammock strung between two birch trees with leaves all the way out. The “big” girls (my two and a cousin, ages seven through nine) are whispering to each other on the ground near the fire while Brian “mows the lawn” with a little Playskool mower that probably used to blow bubbles. The littlest two? They’re swinging. Petra (two) is in the baby swing chattering happily while Lilly (giant by comparison) oscillates on the red plastic “big girl” swing beside her.

“Push me!”

This phrase from two little girls on one primary-colored plastic playset (again, Playskool) is on constant repeat. Petra’s light blue eyes shine. They’d both prefer to have Grandpa push them, but, as mentioned, he’s at the grill, so I have to suffice. I push them and pretend to be offended when I “accidentally” stand too close and they kick me and they giggle. I’m not as good at swings as my dad, mostly owing to the enormous camera I have slung across my body. I push them (and turn around to let them kick my backside) just frequently enough to keep them happy, but otherwise, I am intent on capturing their joy.

Lilly Mae’s eyes are generating their own light, even though they’re mostly closed because her smile is so big. The pink and purple swimsuit (with a tutu!) is clearly too big for her, thus hanging off her shoulders and her butt. She squeals in delight constantly, throwing her head back so she spends most of her swinging upside-down.

Even though I was working hard to get settings and focus right (focus is not easy when they’re swinging), I was not overwhelmed then.

I’m on the hunt right now for other moments like this, when I don’t feel overwhelmed, looking for common threads. For now, Lilly may have to live in her swimsuit.

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Snapshot”.

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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  1. You know, I just got an app called Picture This that will identify any plant you point it at. It seems so small and kind of silly, but now I notice so much more when I’m out on walks. There are oaks overshadowing the path up the river on the east side, and linden trees on the west. Closer in are sycamore maples, and more lindens. There are sweet mock-orange bushes by the dam that smell amazing, and another big bush right at the end of the park on the walk to church.
    Isn’t it strange how details block out the storm?
    Love you.
    Sent from my iPhone


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