Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Meatloaf Monday

I am regularly looking for ways to streamline our life, to put the structure in place so I don't have to think as much and put myself into decision fatigue.  It makes life so much easier.

I've been doing just that with the chore routine for the boys.  After a bit of practice for all of us, it becomes the new normal. The older two boys are doing cat litters three times a week, emptying the dishwasher every morning, cleaning the bathroom sink and mirror every Friday, folding / putting away their own laundry, doing regular clean-ups throughout the day, getting the table ready to eat, after-meal clean-up and now after-breakfast chores: Diego clears and wipes the table, then puts the dishes into the dishwasher while Truen sweeps.

After just a few days, it absorbed into their system.  I generally don't even have to remind them and they almost 'whistle while they work'.  It is an especially sweet outcome for me, since both boys turned into dark clouds after I made the initial announcement, then accused by an angst-filled Diego who wailed, "Why are you ruining our lives??"

Right.  I had to turn my face aside and chuckle over that one.  It was so preposterous it wasn't even worth getting mad about.  And that same morning, both of them followed-up with a "That wasn't so bad" and "I actually like putting dishes in the dishwasher / sweeping".  Seriously.

But this post isn't about chores, it is about meatloaf.  Scrumptious, mouth-watering meatloaf.

I lahv meatloaf.

New at our house is "Meatloaf Monday".  It is so simple and such a great kick-off for the week.  I never have to wonder what I'm going to make that night or what I should pull out of the freezer that weekend.  It is already scripted into my weekly routine.

In addition, I've hit the sweet-spot where I don't even need to look at a recipe.  I've got it down pat.  It's my own creation too, grain-free and loaded with vegetables.

MARVELOUS MEATLOAF
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 4-5 mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 cups cooked squash
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • parsley, sage
  • pepper
  • home-rendered tallow

:: Preheat oven to 350
:: Chop the vegetables and saute them in beef fat, adding the garlic toward the end
:: Put the cooked squash and egg into a large bowl, then beat the egg
:: Once the vegetables are soft and sweet and slightly brown, add it to the bowl along with the meat
:: Add salt, pepper, parsley, sage
:: Mix well, then put back into the 12" cast-iron skillet
:: Bake for 40 minutes

Oooo-la-la, it is amazing.

I love it with baked sweet potatoes, cabbage salad, and a pickle on the side.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The boy-ohs

Eliah (21 months) now says, "Papo!" and points to the top of the refrigerator (where we keep the pacifiers) when he wants one.  He's talking more and more and has recently added, "Throw!", "Wow", and "Uh-oh" to his usual "Dada", "Mama", "Ball", "Bath", "Bye-Bye" repertoire.  He whispers "Toots" or "Bay" and clicks his tongue, holding his hand out for the cats.  We are working on body parts and he can identify his belly button, nipples, teeth, tongue, nose, eyes, ears (most of the time), and his hair.  I usually quiz him during diaper changes just to keep him busy.  I asked him the other day where his hands, feet, and head were (never thinking to have asked before) and sure enough, he knew where they were.  Osmosis.

Jamie (4 years) is currently going through a phase of carrying a notebook with him wherever he goes.  It is the cutest thing.  He like to "write" along the lines, in compact up-and-down scribbles, but he is also writing a few letters - "T", "H", and the cutest "E" with a few too many lines.  He LOVES doing his own "copywork" with his brudders during Morning Lessons.  He is right-handed a holds his pencil like a pro.  He is drawing too - stick people with big heads and long mouths.  The other day he asked for an "ink pencil".  And just yesterday afternoon he set up a little desk at the play table with the toy laptop and a pile of paper.

Truen (7 years) is always busy with little projects - drawing, painting, writing, making books, or building you-name-it with wooden blocks, Duplo blocks, Legos, Magnetix, etc.  He is an absolute self-starter and usually spends a good chunk of the night at the kitchen table at work while his brudders snuggle with Blaine on the couch in front of the television.  He wants to grow his hair out to "keep him warm".  His top-left front tooth is loose and will probably fall out sometime this spring.  He loves to speculate about big ideas like gravity or the heat of the sun.  He recently listened to The Boxcar Children during QT and came downstairs dreamy-eyed and wishing he could live like that.

Diego (9 years) has gotten back into drawing battle scenes.  Bigtime.  He filled the bottom-half of the large sketchbook he got for Christmas the year before last, but realized that most of the top-half of the paper is blank, so he has gotten back into the groove of adding to the action (different levels or ships flying through the sky).  If the house is quiet, he's usually either upstairs playing with Legos or laying on the sunroom floor drawing in his sketchbook.  He's able to make breakfast now: eggs.  I can count on his adept assistance with very little supervision.  Money burns a hole in his pocket and he spends time every day scheming on what Lego sets he (and his brudders) will buy.  He has a clear understanding of the clock, time, and money.

And my other baby, our little Homeschool.  We are in our third official year and I feel like I've learned so much.  We are in a solid routine of daily Morning Lessons with copywork, phonics, read alouds, map-making, etc.  Both boys are reading.  Diego's fluency and reading level are higher than Truen's, which makes sense give his age.  They practice by reading aloud to me every day.  I recently moved our read alouds to breakfast, morning snack, and lunch, which has been an absolute BOON.  I am actually able to get in all of our reading material each week and they are attentive and mostly quiet while I do so.  It is amazing! and it feels so good.  Before this switch, I would say we were definitely floundering.  Or at least I was.  It was hard to bore my way in through the noise and attention levels to get them to sit and listen.  Another addition that feels terrific: reading a longer piece of historical fiction that coincides with our history timeline.  Awesome.  Our most recent novel: Son of Charlemagne.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pictoral Update

We were gone on our annual winter visit to the Twin Cities the week before last --
First with my friend Laura in Wisonsin, then with my SIL in a TC suburb.
Here are three of 'em readin' with Laura's Plumpy.
Just look at that holey knee: the demise of so many pants.

Everyone loves the fountains at Como Park --
And yes, Diego pulled out a few pennies before I put the kibosh on it.
We were there with my SIL and three of the cousins.

 You would not believe what it took to get this picture --
I had to haul Yi-ya up on my lap and block Jamie from the water behind us. 
Surrounded by boy-ohs.

 Visiting the cousins: I just love cozying up at home with them.
Here are the little guys playing with a favorite cousin upstairs . . .

 While the big guys did Lego battles with another favorite cousin downstairs.
Love them. Best cousins ever.

After a bit we came home, and after some fevers and coughing,
we continue the process of readjusting to "real life".
Just look at these little brothers!
It is amazing what kind of growth happens in less than two years.

 Just last week: I love this action shot in the kitchen --
The morning sun shining, our crowded refrigerator front,
Dishwasher, diapers, boys climbing like monkeys.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Resurfacing

I'm sure you could tell by my recent post that I have been working through what I've come to call a "mothering slump" in recent weeks and months.  Too true.  It has been hard, slogging through the day, feeling like all I do is break up ugly fights and scold young boys.

But then, like the clearing of a summer storm, everything has gotten better in a matter of days.  It seems like everything has worked together in conjunction to refresh my weary spirit.

I went to a friend's house last Friday, someone I really connect with, and hashed through life for seven hours.  Seven hours!  And we still didn't cover everything. So many of my thoughts have very little outlet at this point in life - it was extremely cathartic to talk and talk and talk and talk.

The first term at our little homeschool ended, switching out books, poet, artist, and memory work.  Out with the old: The Princess and the Goblin, The Story of Marco Polo, Emily Dickinson, and Norman Rockwell.  In with the new: The Jungle Book, Langston Hughes, Carl Larsson, and our new poem The First Snowfall.  I am absolutely reinvigorated by our new material.

Another recent change is in our daily schedule.  Blaine just started going to and from work an hour earlier each day.  He is very pleased getting home at 4:30 PM with more sunlight in his day and doesn't mind getting up an hour earlier.  On our end, we are enjoying having him home earlier in the afternoon.  Additionally, in conjunction with the baby sleeping in until almost 8:00 AM (very, very new), it also has allowed me and hour or so in the morning in complete silence and solitude.  Bliss.

Thinking about it, that is perhaps the biggest factor in my recent buoyancy: morning solitude.  I have had it in the past, but not since the birth of baby #4 in May 2014.  A year and a half.  It has been rough.  I have been biding my time, trying to stay optimistic that it will return, but have felt wearier as time wears on.

I am cautiously optimistic, hoping it sticks and won't turn out to be just a short-term anomaly.  I have felt a significant difference in my energy levels and attitude throughout the entire day.  Significant.  That time worth its weight in gold.

To top it all off, the three older boys have broken through the spiraling fights for the time being and have been playing together peacefully, enmeshed in a world of make-believe that keeps them inspired and happy.  Today they were playing house under the stairs; yesterday, it was something akin to "army camp".  What sweetness there is when peace ripples throughout the house.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

It never ends, but it never should end

I had an epiphany last week while listening to a podcast.

Organization is a continuous process, not an end-goal.  It is as unrelenting and daily as dishes or laundry.

Mind blown.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Out-processing

I am finally at the place in my life where I am drug-out, bone-tired by bed-time.  It seems like it used to be "just tired" when it was time for bed - I'm sure I was sleepy, but this?  I am weary.  I'm not sure if that is just where I am at in the mothering journey or if it goes with the territory of being in my late thirties.  I have no idea where anything sits along that line.  Is X a sign or aging of simply the wear-and-tear of mothering?

I have many inspirational ideas for wonderful posts, at least in my mind, where I am able to thoughtfully process through life.  But when I sit down - poof - everything goes up in a puff of smoke.  I don't have one thoughtful thought in me.  Or perhaps it is all submerged.

I've experienced various levels of identity crisis in this mothering journey, the confusion of trying to sort out who I am amongst the duty of life and serving others.  It sounds so dramatic, and perhaps less pressing to those of a different temperament, but it has been a weight on me at times.  I look back to my daybook entries or blog posts, even from early motherhood, and I see a girl who has not yet become - still paddling along as I always had, exploring little nooks and crannies, full of energy,  interest, and fun.

But now? I'm the hag that says, "I'm not going to argue with you, just do it" and "Don't give me that look" or "I'm going to give you a chance to do that again" and "Are you ready to be kind?" or "I'm ready for boys to get the table ready for din-ner" and "Time for before-lunch clean-up!"  And so on.

"Free-time", or even down-time, basically doesn't exist - I always have a long agenda of items that need my attention, from the physical reality surrounding me to paperwork and life records.  I'm not even sure what I would do if I had TRUE "free-time".  Even writing this post makes me feel a little jittery, expecting to be interrupted at any moment.

Am I complaining? I don't think I am even though it may feel like it. (I dislike the feeling of "wallowing" in negativity and I especially detest presenting myself in a negative manner.)  I know I am out-processing reality as I know it.

I feel like a changed person - like a train on my tracks, there is no turning back.  Every year brings new challenges and victories.  I am getting better at the balancing of life (housework, organization, meal planning, schoolwork, household management, etc.) - I know I am - I can see the results around me.  I look back at my past self and see just how much I had to learn.  I'm sure that will be the story until the very end, but it is just so amazing to me.