Monday, November 17, 2014

Pan :: Pancake :: Pantsy :: That Lil' Rascal

Our Jamie is almost 4 years old.  How did that happen??  He's been saying the funniest things recently.  Little tidbits that make me drop everything and run for a pen ASAP.

:: "Mama, there's a lot of dragonflies in our town . . . in our universe . . . in our Minnesoter."
~ Sitting on the sunny front walk in September, with peanut butter smeared all over his face, watching the dragonflies zoom over the driveway.

:: "This is one of the rarest things I've ever seens."
~ Showing Blaine Diego's 'Monster Fighters' Lego set.  "Rare" being a very common description these days with our fellas.  Mostly about Lego pieces.

:: "I'm not hungry anymore . . . I ate my cat food."
~ After a recent and unfortunate trend in consuming cat food.  Blaine had just found him eating handfuls of it.

Jamie (with dramatic sadness): "Mama, Gramma said I couldn't wash dishes when we were butchering"
Mama (with tenderness): "Oh yeah...?"

Jamie (even more dramatic, doe-eyed and pouty-lipped): "Yeah.  I almost went outside to get helded."

Mama (melting heart): "Oh . . . it must have scared you?  So that you needed to get helded?"

Jamie (resigned): "Yeah.  And I really wanted to wash dishes."
~ A morning a week or so after butchering.  Blaine's mom was holding down the fort inside, including managing the hot water and caring for Jamie and the baby.  Washing dishes just wasn't in the cards that day.

Jamie: "I love looking at the snow, Mama."

Mama (gooey heart): "Me too."

Jamie: "Tim is nasty, Mama."

Mama: "Tim is nasty??  Why?"

Jamie: "Because of all the snow on the road that he blends down!"
~ Our neighbor Tim faithfully plows our driveway every winter.  "The road" = our driveway.  We already have a thick blanket of snow for the season.  Un-un-un-un.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Gutting the toy mess

It is snowing today, with wicked winds from the north.  We were gone this past weekend in the Twin Cities and Wisconsin, visiting our SIL & kids and Blaine's grandparents.  It felt good to be together, away from the feelings of pressure to "get something done" at home.  We laughed, nuzzled, talked, connected, cried a bit (just me), and enjoyed everyone's company.

Things are the home front are feeling more ordered.  The boyz and I are thriving under the newly implemented structure of Morning Chores and Morning Lessons; this combined with my cut-throat attack on the play table and the space afforded by our new bookshelf, things are feeling mighty fine.  Instead of feeling whipped around in the swirling eddies of chaos, I feel strong, like I have a handle on our time and space.

It is so interesting to me, how narrow my focus in life has become.  As a homeschooling mother, my world is confined within these four walls.  All of my mental, physical, and emotional energy is used to maintain our household, keep us clean and fed, and cultivate our children.  I am fascinated by the fact that while what I am doing is not at all what I would have ever expected to "be" "when I grew up", I am completely satisfied and extremely engaged by it.  Expectations formed by cultural undercurrents are not at all what I have found life to be; or at least, not what I have found satisfying in my own life.

In regards to the TOY MESS.  I'm fairly certain I have removed 75-80% of the glut.  I have gone through everything 4-5 times now, sifting and gathering, sorting and shifting.  I was completely heartless and got rid of more than just mismatched riffraff and plastic toy bits.  I gathered many different sets that don't get played with or fall into the "too much of a good thing" category.  Do we honestly need so many toy instruments?  Or two sets of Melissa and Doug toy food?  18 billion plastic farm animals?  Three zillion toy trucks?  No.

 What we've been living with for the last two years

All the sifted toys are sitting in boxes in the basement, mostly sorted.  The next step is to go through everything and finish bagging up the various sets.  I keep finding more pockets of hidden toys throughout the house and I refuse to laden our small-town thrift store with a mismatched blow-out.  We have all the pieces (or most of them) and I want to keep them together for the next person.

But the most amazing thing by far is that NOBODY MISSES THE TOYS.  Diego has commented on how nice it is to have less to clean up.  Jamie and Eliah, who have never had the chance to play at the play table in their entire little lives, are making full-use of the space.  It's like an entirely new world opened up for them.  Even Diego and Truen have been playing on or around the table.

I've kept select vehicles (trucks, tanks, tractors, boats, airplanes), all the action figures, the best of the musical instruments, the wooden food set, the Imaginext dinosaur set, select stuffed animals, a few inside balls, the two little "car" riders, the doll house, hospital and parking garage.  Everything else is getting the boot.

[This is such a laugh, because we still have our wooden block set, the Duplo blocks, Magnetix, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, all the costumes, and the multitude of Legos (sets and miscellany).  These toys are all stored on various shelves and qualify in the "use, then put away" category.  We still have SO many toys.]

 In process

It looks cleaner, there is less to clean up, toys are actually getting use played with, with more space to play in, etc., etc., etc.  I could gush for hours.  Less is really more.  And I am going to be vigilant about it from now on.  I refuse to be swallowed by a toy mess that has taken a life of its own, ever again.  Less is more.  Less is more!

It has also taken me down the path of reexamining all areas of our household.  Our book collection, the holiday closet, other areas of storage.  I am done with sentimental ties holding me down to stuff.  Some of it I will keep, but the days of accumulation are done.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Semi-annual Pumpkin Picture

My two favorite shots - #18 and #31.  Blaine went bananas behind me to keep their attention while I snapped away (thank goodness it wasn't another 2012).  Often the very first picture is the very best, but not this year.

We didn't carve pumpkins last year.  I can't remember exactly why, though I think it may have been the combo of new baby and no pumpkins from our garden.  Or maybe it was too cold?  Or could it have been that we were too upset about my BIL's cancer?  I honestly have no memory.  I don't even remember being sad about it.

This year Diego and Truen carved their own pumpkins.  In typical fashion, Diego imploded and stomped off all upset in angst and sheer disappointment, as carving was harder-than-it-looked and things-weren't-perfect, while Truen patiently worked toward the end goal without a hitch.  Jamie wanted a "mad-looking" pumpkin and Eliah was just happy to mingle.  The feathers strewn around are the remnants of butchering from the previous weekend.

Years' past for all our viewing pleasure:  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Like the crack of the whip, I snap attack

I am on a major reorganization and de-cluttering binge.  MAJOR.  I have had enough. 

Let me count the ways:
  • Sorted through sock and undies drawers, the pajama drawer: match, storage, thrift
  • Cleaned the wooden shelf formerly in storage in our quonset (gutted from Blaine's parents' kitchen after their remodel), brought to the basement, organized ALL boy shoes, sandals, mud boots, snow boots by like-kind and size.
  • Vacuumed, sanded, painted the exterior, then cleaned the innards of a gargantuan bookshelf, again, formerly in storage in our quonset (and a library shelf from the old-old library in Small Town, MN, the nostalgia).  This sucker is is probably 8-9 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide, solid wood.  Un-un-un-un.  It comes inside to electrify our book organization this weekend.  I can't imagine ever needing another bookshelf (if we keep our collection within reason).
  • Started sorting through the DUMPSTER we call our play table.  Goal: to get rid of 75-80% of our toy collection.  It will be a many day process: my plan is to sift, sort, toss, organize, then haul the excess to the thrift.  I already have two gigantic boxes filled to the brim.  Vengeance is mine.
  • ATTACK the mess in the upstairs storage room (ebay, mending pile, seasonal clothing): buy a new shelving unit, sort, organize, put away.
  • Clear the MESS atop my dresser (in disarray from the last disaster, i.e. "Don't climb the dresser drawers", otherwise known as, "Jamieeee!  Ohhhhhh nooooooo!" in slo-mo, already at least a year ago).  The days of pretty display are done: this is survival.  Sort, put away for future intrigue.  Leave out a few necklaces and earrings.
  • Start getting ruthless with my clothing glut.  If it doesn't fit right, get right of it.  If I don't really like it, get rid of it.  Sort by season and store in the off-season (I already started this last year).

Much of my inspiration was fueled by the deep-clean on our kitchen last June done by my mom and myself.  It was so refreshing and I have been reveling in it these many months.  Thanks, Muver.

Listening to a podcast from The Art of Simple last month kicked things into high gear.  I am on a crusade.  It's time to get radical.

Monday, October 20, 2014

She sings; she reads; she loses her temper

The mother is a world of great mystery.  She loves; she does all kinds of interesting things throughout the house; she sings; she reads; she loses her temper; she may be as peaceful as a summer evening or a whirlwind of fury.  But she is always the mother, and her love for her children, even when it is shot through all the flaws of her character, will be a human love.  It may be far from perfect.  [But it will be something real.]
~Anthony Esolen
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

This description struck me when I read it.  It is within the context of his "recommendation" to put all children in full-time daycare, to replace the mother-child relationship with a worker-client relationship, written in extremity and entirely tongue-in-cheek, of course.

The picture he paints resonated on a deep level with me.  I love the romance and reality all rolled into one.  A mother, as peaceful as a summer evening or a whirlwind of fury.  Yes.  I've been there.

This book was an amusing and thought-provoking read.  He presents sound observations on life and culture that are worth contemplation; within the realm of growing children, definitely, but more expansively, on the needs and desires of the human soul.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It unfolded as if it were planned

I've been thinking back to previous food preservation seasons and have realized something: I didn't feel as stretched this year.

It has a lot to do with the lack of big tomatoes and tomatillos - I did just one batch of salsa this year instead of the usual 4-5.  And another biggie: cabbage.  An unfortunate blow-out.  Again, just one batch of sauerkraut instead of the usual 4-5.

But I think it also has a lot to do with these guys.

Our oldest: Diego and Truen, ages 9 and almost-7
(Exploring the dry creek bed southwest of our place)

Looking back over the past year, I can see that we have been building up to the concept of Morning Chores and Evening Chores.  I didn't even really realize I was doing it.  It started with the cat litters last winter.  In the spring I added emptying the dishwasher every morning.  In the summer they started folding and putting away their own clothes each week.  This fall they started emptying and refilling the goose and duck water troughs every night.

It has been amazing.  Not only is it a relief to us in the fact that it takes a bit of the load off of our shoulders, but the boys are stepping up to the plate and accepting responsibility.  I am so pleased about it.

In our experience thus far, there have been a few keys to success:
  • Consistency.  They do their chores every morning before breakfast.
  • Teamwork.  I have them do everything together so it doesn't overwhelm them.
  • Dessert!  We made chocolate mousse to celebrate their takeover of the bird water from Blaine.
They are also very keen on the idea of a $50 a year allowance as a reward for their efforts (I can't remember what that breaks down to per week).

So when I look around, things aren't quite as overwhelming as they have been in the past.  Instead of feeling like absolutely everything sitting squarely on my shoulders during the day, there has been a bit of a reprieve.  It is such a relief. 

And by writing this out, I came to realize that the boys have taken over two chores apiece from Blaine and me.  Cat litters and bird water from Blaine and dishwasher and folding clothes from me.  Awesome.  Next on the agenda: cleaning the bathroom sink & mirror and vacuuming.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

2014 Apple-picking

There aren't many apples in the middle, but climbing is fun.

 Jamie wanted up so badly . . .

And another little feller did too.

 "Bountiful Harvest"
I've been so amazed by apples this fall.
What a gift!

Orchard scenery: this year we have 5 geese, 5 ducks, and 8 chickens. 

 The geese are grazers and keep the grass nicely clipped.
They seem to like Blaine, but haaaate the boys and hiss at them.
There are three Embden and two White Chinese.

 We have to herd the geese and ducks in every night --
Eliah is showing exactly how it is done, arms outstretched,
though we usually have brooms or toy bats in hand to widen our span.
I always bring E-yi-ya in the backpack when I do it, so he knows. Cute.

 Ducks are so funny!
Swedish Blue and Swedish Blacks
We have been getting beautiful grey eggs from them.

 And while we were at it, we picked the rest of the pumpkins and squash --
This van is used like a truck to haul things like wood or straw.

 The fellas with their Da

 With Mama


 "What big eyes you have, grandmother"

And even bigger!