a cozy little spot for me

Corner

In a wild move towards wholeness via self-care, I moved a pink chair into my bedroom next to my bed.  And I put over it the Hawaiian print quilt my Grandma and I made together for a sense of warmth.  Added my favorite painting for inspiration.

Then there wasn’t room for the dresser, so I cleaned out the closet.  Think floor to ceiling storage, stuffed full — a bank of sterilite drawers for the kids seasonal clothes, diapers, linens.  Worthy items, not wanted here.  Moved the dresser in.

Closet

Rescued the photos from our wedding month that have languished for a year under our bed and put them up.

And now I clean my room first in the morning.  No more cleaning everyone else’s stuff first (whether they asked for it or not).  A cozy little spot for me.  A place to dream, a place to read.  I feel an unwinding in my chest when I walk into our room.  Sometimes I come in just to sit in my chair and look at the clear floor.  It makes me happy.

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popcorn (again), etc.

:: popcorn update

I figured if I was making enough popcorn to write a post about it, maybe I was making enough popcorn to merit spending money on and allotting precious kitchen space to a machine dedicated to making popcorn with ease.  Gone are the days of my childhood where popcorn makers were larger than your stock pot – or so I hoped.

We welcomed an air popper into our household this week and immediately put it to the test.  A whole stock pot full of popcorn in two minutes, wowee.  Everybody knows how to make popcorn now, and we all stand around and watch them pop.  Very exciting.  Also very satisfying.

The popcorn still could probably use a minute in the oven to crisp up.  Because it’s an air popper, it doesn’t use any oil and I’m having wild thoughts about using butter solely for flavor.  Because I can.  But I probably won’t.

Turns out the kids love plain popcorn liberally dusted with cinnamon.  I shouldn’t have been surprised — they all love to eat applesauce with more cinnamon than you can shake a stick at.

:: lumps, bumps, and sunscreen

I went to the doctor on Friday to check out a lump on my chest that I saw in the mirror that morning.  I won’t kid that there aren’t some scary thoughts associated with the word lump.  (Lump.  Rather an ugly word in itself, but kinda satisfying to say.  Lump.  Lllluuuummmmp.  Not like the word “vulgar” – that’s just ugly all the way around.)

It turned out to be a sebaceous cyst.  (Not worrisome).

Then, since I was there, I made the doctor (made being the operative word) do a breast exam as well — I hadn’t had one since I finished breastfeeding.  Can we just talk breast exams for a moment?  I really don’t see how a brief feel-feel, and another brief feel-feel qualify as a thorough breast exam.

And then, since I was there (let’s kill all the birds with the stone), I had the doctor look at a rough spot on my temple.  Pre-cancerous sun damage.  Ouch.  He froze it with his big bottle of frozen torture and I squeezed my eyes shut and remembered holding my great-grandma’s hand while she got a spot frozen on her nose.  I am now one with the ladies in their eighties.

I’ve been a faithful sun screener.  Most of the time I try to just stay out of the sun.  After all, sunscreen and sun damage seem to be a classic case of d-d if you do and d-d if you don’t.  This summer I bought Neutrogena baby sunblock.  Hypo-allergenic this and free and clear that.  Thick, white sun block that takes hours to rub into a family of 6 but still leaves us looking like escapees from Clowns Anonymous.

A couple of years ago my mom gave me a bottle of the most delightful sunscreen.  It sprays on, light and clear.  It’s the work of a second to rub it in.  A little goes a long way.  It was quite expensive, so I guarded it carefully.  But not carefully enough, because somebody got into the cupboard and dumped it out.  I don’t remember who the somebody was in this instance.  And I was horrified at the waste and sad to say goodbye to such a delightful product.  But a little relieved as well.  Surely something so very nice was way toxic and I was poisoning my family, sacrificing them on the altar of easy application.  I was so convinced it was highly toxic that I couldn’t bring myself to look it up in the toxic database, I held tightly to my ignorance.  I currently have the same problem with my antiperspirant.

I finally looked it up this summer.  My free and clear Neutrogena Baby?  Toxicity level of 7.  My beloved I’m-sure-it’s-killing-us-and-I’m-using-it-anyways KinEsys sunscreen?  Toxicity level of 3.

Bazinga, baby.

My sister left me her bottle of KinEsys – she figured she won’t need it much in London.  Sunscreening my family is now a joy unparalleled.  Spray, rub, done + peace of mind = I’ve become an evangelist.

So let me do a little evangelizing.  If you’re of the sunscreening type, I’d like to highly recommend KinEsys.  (It’s worth the money.)  I also recommend keeping the bottle out of the hands of people who might pour it out.  Don’t want to be crying over spilt sunscreen.

 

popcorn (on the stove)

Thursday night is yoga night for me and movie night for the kids.  It’s morphed into a popcorn and smoothie supper night, which I like.  Easy.  Although I usually eat a heartier supper after the kids go to bed.  Because I can.

Let’s talk popcorn today, shall we?  Specifically, popcorn on the stove.

Making popcorn is supposed to be super easy, like making beans.  When you make beans, you basically put them in a pot with water and cook them until they’re done.  Super easy, right?  Well it seems so, but it’s not.  I think it took me four or five years to figure out how to cook beans well.  My trick after years of trial and error? I put them in a pot with water and cook them until they’re done.

Same thing with popcorn.

We don’t have a microwave. (I just can’t bear to allow something to take that much of my precious little counter space.  Also, I confess to paranoia that we will eventually find that microwaves are, indeed, killing us.) So no packets of popcorn, no putting plain popcorn in a paper bag and making your own packets with grand DIY style.

To make popcorn on the stove, all you do is put some oil in the bottom of a hot pan, pour in some kernels, give the pan a shake, and let them pop until there are a few seconds in between pops.  Easy peasy.

After many burnt batches, batches with more kernels unpopped than popped, and hours scrubbing off oil that had burned to the bottom of the pan, I’ve kind of figured out something that works and I thought I’d share how I make popcorn.

I put oil in a hot pan, pour in some kernels, give the pan a shake, and let them pop.  

 

First, the pan.  No heavy bottomed pan for me – the oil is either not hot enough to pop the kernels or it pops the kernels and burns onto the pan.  My trusty cast-iron skillet is The Bomb.  No scrubbing, good heat.  I can’t wait until I finally get the cast iron dutch oven I’ve got my eye on.  It will be The Triple Bomb.

Second, the oil.  I use canola.  I’ve tried coconut oil and grapeseed oil (both of which came highly recommended on the healthy side of the internets), but both smoke a great deal for me.

Also about the oil, no healthful oil skimping allowed.  (Oh. My. Goodness.  I just typed “aloud” instead of “allowed” and couldn’t figure out why it looked wrong).  My unscientific observation is that more of the kernels pop when there is more oil.  You need a down right oil slick across the bottom of the pan.

Third, the kernels.  Put a couple in and wait until they pop and then add enough kernels to not really cover the bottom of the pan.  Give them a stir to coat them in your generous amount of oil.  (We’re not talking Paula Deen generous here, we’re talking my kind of generous).  Put on the lid (and crack it to let out some steam) and wait for them to pop.  You’ll have to figure out your own heat — my wimpy stove and mighty cast iron do well with the heat just a bit above medium.

Fourth, the crisping.  The popcorn comes off the stove a bit…not crispy.  I dump it into a 9×13 pyrex casserole dish and then season it right away.  My theory is that the moisture from the steam will help the seasonings to stick without adding more oil or butter.  It kinda works.  I usually season with salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast.  Sometimes we add dill.  Pop the pan into a 325 degree oven for one minute (set the timer!).  It crisps right up!

Bon appétit!

 

 

our summer

colonial

 

at Monticello

A whirlwind of a summer here.  The fullest social calendar we have ever had, and amazingly nothing overlapped.  One thing finished as the next began.  I think we’ve hit a late-summer slow as far as that is concerned.

My Grandpa died in June.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to him being gone, I miss him so much.

on our way

 

on our way to the airport

My step-dad took us to Virginia for a family reunion/memorial service.  The kids would like to move to Virginia.  Cousins were all they are cracked up to be.  And Grandmas and Grandpas and Uncles and Aunts.  But mostly cousins.  In the country, the kids were free-range, coming back to me only to be checked for ticks before falling into bed.

cousins

cousins

 

mid-June, mid-June, mid-June

We’ve turned the corner into summer.  School year things are all finished and neatly tied up, waiting for mid-summer prep.

:: in the garden

We’ve had our first tomato.  A cherry tomato divided into quarters makes for just the smallest bit of a taste, but oh the promise of things to come!  We’ve had our first pile of squashes, and it shows my naiveté and exuberance that I still don’t believe I planted too much squash.  We’ve had our first cucumbers, and I’m thinking I should put in more.

MORE! seems to be my rallying garden cry.  I have never in my life experienced garden abundance, and I want this year to be the YEAR OF ABUNDANCE.  I can only imagine what it’s like to not ration tomatoes.  To have cucumbers coming out my ears.  To not treat red bell peppers as precious, precious (expensive) items.

There are still a few spots left in the garden beds, hmmmm.  More, more, more!

:: we love negative

My mom is coming towards the end of her medical testing and everything is coming back negative, negative, negative.  We love negative.

:: summer = routine revamp, or up-vamp

Summertime means summer schedules, and we’ve started this summer out with a bang.  A bang called chores.

We’ve never had the kids do regular chores outside of taking care of themselves and their things.  Isn’t that enough? It seems like a never ending gargantuan (which I tried hard to spell like an inversion of orangutan) task.  And for a very long time, it has been enough of a task.

But times, they are a changing, and the effort of establishing and then keeping on top of chores for the next 16+ years is trumped by the possibility of raising children with a false and harmful and despicable sense of entitlement.  Taking care of yourself only takes you so far – now it’s time to be a part of a system bigger than yourself, my children!  Welcome to the wonderful world!

Establishing a chore routine (establishing any kind of new routine) takes an awful lot of parental energy, and now as our baby is nearing two, there is some parental energy left over for chores.

They seem to kinda like doing their chores (surprise, surprise).

And while we’re working on routines, we are also working on training the children of the house to get all the way through their morning routines in a reasonable amount of time, and without prompting.  Yes, you may pray for us that we will be consistent, consistent, consistent.  That Mommy will get out of bed, out of bed, out of bed.

:: yoga teacher (that’s me)

I have now taught three yoga classes in a row, and I have some thoughts on the matter.

1) It’s delightful to be Teacher, Source of Knowledge, rather than Repressed Know-It-All (a childhood label still sticks to my insides).  (And while we’re on the subject, why does exuberance and delight in knowledge equal a know-it-all?)

2) I absolutely love touching people.  I have a deep, deep reverence for bodies.  It’s always a surprise, getting to know someone else’s body, the way they look is often very very different from the way they feel.  Flexible people can have tense, hard bodies.  People who are very tight can have delicious, soft, giving bodies.  More than a surprise, though, it is a knowledge.  We store everything in our bodies and much is revealed there.  A privilege and a gift, teaching yoga.  Sometimes I say to myself, giddily, like I’m whispering behind my hand, I get to touch people.   Cooooool.

Enjoyed this post on the subject.  Eight Things I Learned From 50 Naked People

 

a room for living in

This week our living room has been…

The Oregon Trail.  (The structural post was harnessed with a jumprope, turning the couch into a covered wagon, complete with horse.)

A hotel.

A jumprope gym.  (My mom had taken classes in jumprope, and with some practice the big girls are really making progress.  They especially like double jumping on the trampoline.)

A tennis court.  (Of late, Levi spends probably 30 minutes every day practicing his forehand and backhand against the front door.  Really need to cover the glass window with cardboard, we’re living on the edge of catastrophe here.)

A soccer field.

A library.

A movie theater.

A school room.

A sewing studio.

A concert hall.

A dance studio.

 

Living room, an aptly named room.  We do a lot of living here.

What kinds of living have been happening in your living room?

 

 

updates

I thought that maybe a few updates were in order here.

:: First of all, my mom is here from Guam for about two months. Yay!  She came earlier than expected in order to undergo some medical testing in LA. Boo.  (Guam isn’t much for specialties).

An initial consult with the liver specialist and he says he doesn’t think she has cirrhosis of the liver – which is what the tests in Guam had indicated.  He’s referring her to a rheumatologist instead.  Now we are waiting for the insurance company and the doctor’s office to get the CT scan scheduled (just to make sure on the liver) and the appointment with a rheumatologist.  Waiting seems to be the name of this game.  We’ve been sitting on this since, what, March?

In the meantime, everyone is enjoying having Grandma around.  With a firm skype-relationship, Kiri thought her favorite TV character had come alive when Grandma arrived.  Big smiles and an obvious sense of wonderment like, “Wow, coooool”.

:: Thank you so much for the recipes in the comments of my last post.  Riffs on grain salads and other goodies.

I am on the second week now of 30 Day Vegan.  I signed up with a friend and two other friends signed up as well, so now we have a little club to compare recipes and cheer each other on.

It’s extra nice to have Mom here while doing 30 Day Vegan.  We’ve been cooking up a storm, and she’s been doing more than her fair share of dishes, sneaky Grandma.

:: We’ve been on the usual end-of-school round of piano recitals and children’s choir performances and charter school requirements.  Easing into summer.

:: My yoga teacher has to go in for major surgery – holding hope for her.  She’s asked me to teach while she is recovering.  This will be my first “job” in years.  I’ve taught one class here and there over the last few years.  I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and discovering my teaching voice.  Getting into the flow.  And maybe I’ll make more than $75 this year.

:: We can’t seem to manage to get our summer schedule ironed out.  It seems like every decision requires a juggling of about seven different people/factors.

:: Levi dropped my laptop last week and shattered the screen.  $340 later I have a bright shiny new screen, and I wonder what the person who repaired it thought of the bespackled and besmudged screen.  Maybe I should always keep my screen clean, just in case, like that old adage that you should always wear clean underwear in case you’re in an accident.

:: Which brings me to – we were in an accident last week.  Another one.  In the other old car.

Devo and I were taking Amelie out to Jamba Juice (taking advantage of Grandma’s presence), when someone ran a red light and hit the back side of our car.  We were all okay other than a day of being a bit stiff and sore, but the car has been officially totaled.

I think we’re going to keep the car and take the money  (blessedly, more than we had hoped).  We’ll repair the broken window, but not the dents – the car just isn’t worth putting that money into.  So now we will each be driving a battered car and continue saving for our dream car…a twelve passenger van.

I’m going to have to be extra cool to pull off driving smashed up cars with flair.  Any suggestions?

mostly plants

We’ve seemed to reach our semi-annual desire for Great Changes.  At Christmas, it was our reworking of routines and general organization.  Here in Spring-Almost-Summer both Devo and I have our minds on road trips and camping, and food.

I haven’t been doing a great job of feeding my family recently.  One Sunday I was griping to Devo (it truly was a gripe) about my dismal meal planning and pantry stocking of late.  He kindly began to offer ideas on how to be more efficient (you know, meal planning and scheduled shopping).  I interrupted him with a hand in the air.

I don’t really want to talk about the details right now.  I just want to do some self-bashing. 

I almost gasped as the words that came out of my mouth reached my ears.  Self-bashing, what a ghastly, ugly, damaging past-time.  Of course I know when I’m participating in self-bashing.  But to have the truth of the matter come, unedited, out of my mouth without warning – it was sobering to see that nasty habit in the light.

I’m taking a tighter rein on my self-talk.  Again.  Weird how it starts out so innocuously and spirals so quickly down to loathing and despair.  Trippy.

But back to food.

 

I took a look through the documents on my computer this weekend, searching for previous meal plans for inspiration.  I found that we basically don’t eat anything that we ate eight years ago.  Or five years ago.  Even three years ago only has about half the meals to be what we would eat now.

Our eating style has changed so drastically that we have basically started from scratch.  Started back at basics with plants.

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants. -Michael Pollan

I’ve been vegetarian since I was 17 (Hong Kong chicken flu and Mad Cow disease in one year helped with that decision), and Devo converted around the time we were married.  During the gestational years, we did both eat some fish, but it seems that that has phased out.  (I am planning, however, to have some Alaskan salmon when we visit my dad in Anchorage this summer.)  The kids are vegetarians.

Dairy has slowly left our refrigerator.  A bit of Tillamook cheddar and parmiggiano reggiano.  Occasionally a tub of Greek yogurt.  Mayo is gone for good.

“Vegemeat”, long a staple food in my life and heart, was eliminated first for budgeting purposes and now because we are soy-free at home.

We eliminated soy at home last fall, due to concerns about endocrine disruption in our children and myself.  It has made a difference, I might add.  But I mourn the loss of soy milk and tofu (not to mention that it’s in just about everything).  And vegemeat.

And now, the most recent challenge is to move away from relying so heavily on breads.  Sandwiches and burritos have been the core of our meal repertoire.  But when I buy bread, it gets eaten for at least two, if not three meals a day.  Too much.

We’re sick of corn tortillas, and I can’t in good conscience have us eat so many white flour tortillas any longer.  My body rebels.  There are some good whole wheat tortillas, but they are worth their weight in gold and we eat a lot of food around here.

Which leaves us with Mostly Plants.  

 

For a long time, I have cooked under the following formula ::

One legume, one grain, one green vegetable, one yellow vegetable.  

It’s a wonderful way to start learning how to make meals that are not based around a main dairy, meat, or vegemeat item.  Tossed salads, grain salads, bean bowls, fried rice, pasta with vegetables, sandwiches, burritos/tacos.  All of these are great ways to use the vegetables that are on sale and in season at the grocery store/farmer’s market or that come in the farm box.

But I seem to have reached a point of stagnation.  With the elimination of soy and moving away from breads, I’m left without the foundations of our staple meals.  Also, this year has matured our family so that there are more apparent food preferences and aversions.  Our policy is that everyone must eat, without complaining, a modest helping of whatever is served.  But as main cook, I must say that I prefer a table full of enthusiasm and second helpings over grim endurance.

All of which means, it’s time for a change!

 

I’ve cancelled our farm box for the time being so that I can do some picking and choosing of my own at the grocery store.

I’ve signed us up for 30 Day Vegan.

Devo and I are seriously considering investing in our first juicer.  Recommendations?

I have planted 12 tomatoes, six cucumbers, way too much squash (Mom, you have to promise to help eat it), and seven bell peppers.

I’ve reworked and updated my perpetual grocery list.

I am trying hard to develop a manageable and tasty meal plan.

I’m on the lookout for new complete-meal recipes.  I enjoy cooking from whatever I’ve got, but it’s time to find and plan for full meals.  Preferably ones that everyone loves.  Or almost everyone.

 

Might I just say that eating with a conscience these days is a very very hard thing to do?  Eat in season, buy locally, buy organic, avoid cans, stay in budget, eat a balanced and healthy diet.  Just those criteria alone can leave us with hardly anything to eat.

I call for new criteria to eating with a conscience : use your brain! don’t get hung up on getting it all right!  eat well!

Anyone have a plant-based, fresh, simple and easy meal to share?

 

daffodil skirt

I’ve been an armchair sewist for about a year. Reading, scoping out blogs, finding a few favorite and easy things to make.  It all bumped up a serious notch when I got Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques.

It was my bedside reading for weeks.  Tailor’s tacks, fabric guides, pattern drafting, bound buttonholes.  Sometimes I’d have to not read it before bed, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep after reading such interesting and exciting things.

Really.

From the introduction:

“While shortcuts and quick projects seemed to be the trend in the sewing world, I was spending hours overcasting seam allowances by hand.  I started to appreciate slow sewing and the beautiful garments it produced.”

I was always a part of the “shortcut and quick projects” crowd.  (I was trending!  How unusual.) I have a notoriously short attention span for long projects, I like variety and change.

(Scuba diving is one such evidence of my attention span.  By the time I’ve geared up and gotten in the water, I’m ready to be finished and go home.  Ditto with projects.  Give me results or give me…something else to do.)

This whole idea of slow sewing was a revelation to me.

Slow sewing produces beautiful garments (that don’t look “homemade” – hello unfinished seam allowances and poor fit).  Clothes that are designed, altered, and sewn to fit me.  (Anyone else despise clothes shopping as a futile effort in finding what doesn’t exist?)

I am also really drawn to the idea of slow sewing as a meditative act.  Being in the moment instead of rushing towards the end of the seam, the end of the project, on to the next thing.

And then I’ve been watching the Great British Sewing Bee.  It’s a reality show/competition to find Britain’s best home sewist.  I just loved it.  Especially Ann, the elderly lady who does yoga twice a week and has been sewing every day for something like 75 years.  She’s so classy.

The Great British Sewing Bee really fired me up.

I’ve been waiting to lose the baby weight, and then to lose the nursing fullness before sewing my own clothes.  Which I finally did – only to gain some back.  (Whaaa?  Am I experiencing the beginnings of middle age spread?  So many things about my body have changed recently and I don’t think I can chalk it all up to having four children.)

But what the hay, I think the extra random body mass won’t make too much of a difference in clothing.

I chose Colette’s Peony as my first project and ordered the pattern last week.  But in the meantime I decided to do a little project while I waited on the US postal service.

A while back I had bought some yellow fabric to make curtains for my kitchen window.  I’ve wanted corn-colored curtains ever since Pat and Rae had them at their bedroom window in Mistress Pat.  Unfortunately, the yellow just isn’t right for the kitchen (it needs something more mellow and with a small print, I think).  So channelled my inner Maria again and turned the curtains into a dirndl.

I followed Gertie’s instructions for a full, gathered skirt (which are also in the book, slightly modified).  I ended up lining it for modesty’s sake and putting in my very first zipper!  (Yes! First zippers are worthy of exclamation marks!)

Introducing, my daffodil skirt.  Poofy happiness.

daffodil skirt

 

photo by Levi

Summer

The calendar tells us that summer is approaching.  We have such lovely winter weather here.  A few days of “winter”, a few days of “summer”, and a lot of days of just perfect.  But the sun doesn’t lie, and the days are getting longer.  The kids are going to bed before the sun and we’re starting to wish we could stay outside in the garden just a bit longer.

I’m thinking forward to the dog days of summer and how we hibernate inside for the duration.  Maybe our routine could use a bit of a shift.  Spend time outside in the early morning and the late afternoon.  Do school work and activities through the midday.

Somehow we missed our window for a spring break.  Between the church schedule, the piano schedule, and the charter school schedule, our own personal spring break got scheduled right on out.  Homeschool blogs were talking about needing a break and a lift in February and March.  I’m a late bloomer.  Here in late-April I’m ready to scrap “rejuvenation” altogether and move straight towards our summer routine, with a significant let-up on the “should-dos”.

In the meantime, we’re taking a week off of piano practice and taking (yet another) week easy on school pressures.

Next year we’ll take a spring break.  Promise.

 

spring cleaning

In for a penny, in for a pound.  That’s the story of the garage of this, the first true garage clean-out (vs. garage clean-up) since we moved in 11 months ago.

All those pieces of furniture that I thought might come in useful have been patiently awaiting their verdict.  Quite a few pieces got the boot (particle board hand-me-downs…yuck.  and let’s not discuss why I’ve let them stay in our home for so long).  The nicer pieces got adopted by my artist friend Rebecca, who is going to turn them into pieces of happiness.

But I don’t want to give up my two wood bookcases, wedding gifts from my uncle, pretty and mellow, that have been part of our home for ten years.

So I had to find a place to put them.

And thus began the Great House Overhaul.  Yes, right in the middle of the Great Garage Clean-Out.  Haven’t touched the garage since I last mentioned it.  But boy, is the house getting a lot of attention!

The only place those bookcases could possibly go (and me remain happy) is in Kiri’s room.  But Kiri’s room was already occupied by four bookcases.

In a bold move, I moved the four bookcases from Kiri’s room to the breakfast nook-turned-office.  That desk had really been bugging me, the feng shui was off.  Emptying four full bookcases on a whim is always a bold move, but I LOVE IT.  That corner of the house finally feels right.

desk

The thing is, those four previously full bookcases are now mostly empty.  The shelves are now mostly decorative instead of mostly functional.

Which means a lot of pruning, purging, tossing, sorting, reimagining, rearranging, reorganizing.  White space and margin, my decorating requisites.

After a week of diligent work, I’ve got it all put away in new places (said places also being subject to my Mad Skillz) — except for one shelf’s worth of books.  Can’t find a place for them.

Crumbs.

While I waited for the elusive solution to appear, I set in on the toy collection.  Remind me to tell you about the toys.  It’s an odd story.

In the meantime, we’re looking ahead to the summer.  My mom is coming out (early – yay! – for medical appointments – serious boo) and then once school lets out for the summer, we’ll have a few weeks with Liana here as well.  To make room for them, we’re going to make the transition to having Levi and Kiri in the same room, which has always been our ultimate goal.  Right after sleep through the night.

(I feel some trepidation about the potential loss of sleep in this transition.  But in my clearer, braver moments, I remember that they usually wake one another up when they cry at night anyhow, so it should just be like usual.  Only cozier.)

So we’re looking to set up Kiri’s room as a functional long-term guest room for two.

Which means…the beloved bookcases from the garage don’t fit.

Bwahahahaha.

What’s a girl to do.

I think I’m hitting an Organizing Slump.  Time to think of something else.  (Don’t you dare mention the garage.)  Like watching Frasier and soothing my frayed end-of-day nerves.  Hey, I finally got to the part where Daphne and Niles get together!  I hope I won’t be lame and lose interest now that the whole unrequited love bit is gone.

Anybody else gone a little crazy with their spring cleaning?

out and about

I’m always on the lookout for interesting people.  A few months back, I introduced the girls to the joys and laughs of people watching in an airport.  (Parenting perk – having the fun of teaching them how, and then a whole new set of people watching partners.) Figuring out who belongs with who, and how they’re related.  Looking closely at faces and extrapolating possible stories.  Where are they going, why are they going?  We never got to see who was going to pick up the extremely large and tall man with tattoos, dreadlocks, a big beard, and saggy pants.  We figured he was probably a gentle soul.

A couple of people around the neighborhood have caught my eye recently.

:: twins

There is a set of twins who I often see out getting their daily walk.  They must be in their 70s, dyed coppery hair (matching), sporty old lady outfits (coordinated), matching strides, walking close together side by side.

I love to see them, it brings a smile to my face every time.  I holler out, “There are the twins!” every time we drive by.  It bewildered the kids at first, but now they look for the twins as well as for our favorite resident snowy egret.

I like to wonder about these ladies, what it’s like to be twins for so long.  Do they have husbands snoozing in armchairs at home?  Are they both widowed and enjoying retirement, just the two of them all cozy in their gated community condo?  Or maybe they never married and this is just today’s version of an entire lifetime of daily walks.

:: water bottles, requisite

Another set of exercising siblings has caught my eye.  Two brothers and a sister (judging from similar features), all young adults, their early 20s, maybe.  All quite heavy.  Dressed in their t-shirts and cotton shorts, I see them out walking.  Always with their water bottles, usually with earbuds.  They don’t quite walk together, one walks a little ahead or one lags behind.  They have obviously made a pact to exercise together and they’re sticking to it.

I always feel so inspired seeing them, faithfully out for their walk with their ever-present water bottles..  Sometimes I wish I could stop for a minute and pass back to them some of the encouragement they give me.

:: wanted – headband and leg warmers

The house around the corner is getting a redo.  A new paint job (pepto bismol meets mud, delightful).  A new roof.

I just love seeing the contractor who’s been doing all the work.  Big poofy black hair.  Usually tamed (or shaped, rather) by an Olivia Newton John headband.  Dark skin, way too dark.  Usually no shirt, just a pair of shorts and the big boots.  Can’t get over the headband.  Just needs some leg warmers to make my life complete.  I’ll be very sorry when he finishes up work.

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photo – knit your own!

spring cleaning (well, organizing)

Devo and I have laid siege to the Pit of Despair (aka, the Garage) this weekend.  It’s been liberating to air out the possessions, do some spring cleaning.  We bought a big pile of plastic containers and it felt great.

(Generally I believe that the answer is less stuff not more containers, but sometimes you need containers to easily organize the things you have.)

Some of those containers went to organizing our tool supply.  There is only so long that a gallon paint can works as a tool box.

Some came in to the craft cupboard, which has now been revamped and streamlined (no more things falling out when you open the door).

I have big plans for a few more of the containers to replace the multi-sized shoeboxes that some of our homeschooling supplies are in.  Hope to finally find a permanent place for those things, they keep wandering here and there but haven’t found a place that really works yet.

The garage has a lot more work to be done.  It’s been a catch all for months – all of the things I’ve moved out of the house have moved into the garage.  You know how it goes.

I made it through the kids clothes seasonal switcharoo, except for Kiri’s.  I was feeling good about it until we went to go hiking this morning and I couldn’t find anything for anybody to wear.  Got a little grumpy.  Got a little feeling like a failure.  Got a little how hard can it be?

We are going to have bins in the garage for these kinds of outings.  A bin of swimming clothes (already have that going) and a bin for hiking clothes.  When we get home from the outing, the dirty clothes/suits will go directly into the washing machine and then directly back into the bin.  No more hunting for clothes.  We are also going to keep the winter jackets and hats/scarves/etc. in a bin in the garage.  Easy access.

We are also going to set up a series of hooks by the garage kitchen door for all the bags that go on outings.  The hiking bags, the piano bags, the children’s choir bags, the church bag, etc.  I’ve been looking forward to this particular bit of organization for a long time.  Right now all the bags are tossed into the hall closet and often requires excavation to find the needed bag.

A friend wanted to know if we’re planning on parking both cars in the garage once we’re done.  No, siree bob.  A sense of spaciousness is what we’re after.  And we wouldn’t want to always be yelping, “Don’t open the door, you’ll bang the other car!”  which is totally what would happen.

catch-up

I wrote this post last week and never posted it.  I think I intended to write more, but life happened.  So here’s a bit of catch-up.

We had an awful winter of crickets this year.  Lots and lots of crickets everywhere, especially inside the house.  Luckily for our sanity, they were strangely lethargic (and therefore easy to catch/smash).  Now we have an influx of mosquito eaters, which are large, leggy things, also remarkably slow moving.

Unfortunately, the smaller members of the household have developed a shrieking, quaking, uncontrolled fear of mosquito eaters. And even more unfortunate is that the mosquito eaters tend to congregate in the bathrooms.  Which means that no one can go to the bathroom without a Brave Parent first dispatching all the insects.

We are not amused.

We are slowly recovering from the rigors of Easter week.  Known at our church as Four Days With Jesus (Thursday through Sunday), I think of it as Six Days Without Devo.  It was a perfect storm of events leading to the demise of motherly sanity.  Several days of ditching routine due to birthday celebrations, etc.  An ill-advised long late-afternoon nap kept Kiri and Levi up almost four hours past their bedtime early in the week – the effects of which made the rest of the week…challenging, shall we say.  Plus a few other things.  I am still recovering.

The weather is warm enough often enough to merit digging out the summer clothes.  This winter I reduced each child’s available wardrobe to four outfits per child.  Plus church clothes.  We’ve been very pleased with this.  Less laundry for Devo.  No more over-stuffed drawers.  And even if everything gets emptied out, it won’t take more than one arm sweep to put it all away.  As the four outfits get grubby or are outgrown, I can easily swap them out for a fresh item.

Amelie has requested dresses for the summer, and I’m thinking about what a great simplifier a wardrobe of dresses would be.  That would make four pieces of clothing for her, instead of eight.  I think we’ll try to do mostly dresses for all the girls.  Maybe even for Mama, who desperately needs some summer clothes.

I’m making a strong effort to pare down our boxes of hand-me-downs to only items that I like.  I tend to hold on to everything we’ve been given because, after all, what if we need it?  But the $12 it would cost to buy or make a new sundress is probably not worth the amount of crazy I become when trying to sort through piles and piles of clothes.

 

baby years and Amelie’s 6th birthday

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Where have I been all these days?  Crying my eyes out, that’s where.

Kiri and I came to the end of our breastfeeding journey last week.  We had moved from on demand (demand being the key word here) to three times a day, Daniel style (morning noon and night).  Noon dropped out.  Then Devo started taking her out and distracting her in the mornings.  Then one evening I came home from yoga and they had read Goodnight Gorilla together and he’d tucked her into bed with her baby and her giraffe and she’d gone to sleep.

I was ready, she was ready, it was time.  I was ready to end breastfeeding a 20 month old.

But I wasn’t ready to end the baby years.  And that is what apparently just came to an end.  My inner self knew it before my outer self did.  I’ve gone into mourning, grieving hard over the end of something very beautiful and precious.

I have been creating and nurturing life with my body, in my body, for a little over nine years.  That’s over a quarter of my entire life.  And while, yes, I’m glad to be returning to a place of sanity and productivity and the joys of middle childhood, I am heart broken to leave the baby years.

Pregnancy, baby kicks and squirms, labor and birth, the miraculous first days and weeks, the sweetnesses of babies, plump cheeks, fat legs, cuddles under the blanket, nursing, kisses, every day something new, nurturing, our very own baby.

In many ways I feel very alone in this grief.  I think that is because, while others can empathize and support and understand, these experiences are uniquely mine.  They are physical memories.  These years have rent open my heart, my soul, my mind, and my body.  Oh, there’s nothing like it.

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In other news, we have been celebrating Amelie’s sixth birthday this last week with a small party on Friday.  The theme was an old-fashioned garden party (of sorts).  We ordered umbrellas and fans for the girls.  The boys got plastic top hats and handmade bow ties.  I was hoping to make some new dresses for the girls, but contented myself with dressing up their old ones with bright new sashes.  Levi forsook his bow tie and came as Robin Hood.  Kiri wore one of Amelie’s baby dresses, like a little fairy child.

We had set up a stage curtain (which kept blowing over in the afternoon wind), and the littlest girls performed the most darling plays for us.  I always love being reminded how little Amelie still is, sometimes I forget.

Today was her birth day.  It’s kind of nice, because the kids talk about their birthdays so much and for so long before the actual day, that I become accustomed to thinking of them as the next year older before it actually happens.

So now she is officially six and outfitted with a new ballet ensemble, a selection of books, a big butterfly balloon, and a dozen cream colored roses.

According to family tradition, we watched the video of her birth.  The wild, noisy, fast, intense, hard two hours of labor.  The beauty of a home water birth.  The instant recognition and love.  Her first cry.  (I cried.)

We made spring-themed chocolate lollipops for Easter. (Molds in the shape of the desired traditional bunny are apparently impossible to find in-store during the Easter season.  Next year, order online.)

We also went to buy another butterfly balloon when the first butterfly flew away.  (It’s so nice to be able to easily mend a broken heart.)

We fed ducks with the left-over tea sandwich crusts from the party.

The birthday “cake” was a pumpkin pie.  Amelie whipped the cream all by herself.

This week the kids have started sewing their own designs, using the machine, and we had another sewing session today.  Lia can reach the pedal on her own, but all three are having a blast doing the sewing on their own.  I made a few fabric eggs when the machine was free, stuffed with rice they make enchanting hacky sacks.

We laughed through this “duck-umentary” over supper.  Highly recommend.

Edited to add the link for the duck-umentary, sorry!