"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Apple Sauce For The Soul

The boys are taking turns running out to the yard and filling a basket with windfall apples from our tree and running in to dump them into the giant tub on the kitchen counter next to me. We are making apple sauce. I peel and core and the boys collect fruit, cut up the peeled pieces, stir the bubbling fruit on the stove and root around in the spice cabinet electing seasonings that strike their fancy (no to the dill seed, yes to the applespice).

We have been making a saucepan full at a time....two or three pint jar of hot packed sauce in an episode, every batch a small limited edition. It's super fun and super slow and I have had several moments after the kids were in bed when I stared at the mouldering fruit we didn't get to that day and the wispy cloud of fruit flies and thought...."Maybe I should throw them all out and forget the whole thing."

Maybe I will....all projects have a lifespan....but for now...we are making do, squeasing in couple more jars here and there, adding some pureed apricots this time and cardamom, letting each kid play chef and learn to wield a cutting board and a paring knife. I see a long, cozy winter ahead of us, all of us comforted down by applesauce spiced to the palate of the hour.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Must Tune In

I know that pain, stress and sickness has a mysterious ability to manifest in the body...even randomly, a little bizarrely. Yesterday, I suddenly got a searing shoulder pain which felt like somebody had walloped me with a sledgehammer.

I've been stressing about things:

  •  the baby's high lead test results (old house renovation project bites back)
  •  the heat we'd been having
  •  my tyrannical to-do list
  •  parenting my oldest who constantly tests my limits and my beliefs in my capabilities
  •  asserting myself healthily in my marriage
  • not painting as much as I'd like
  • planning the rest of the summer stuff we mean to enjoy
  • my need for connection with friends + my desperation for space and time alone
  • keeping up on the summer reading program at the library
  • the chaos of organizing and culling through our basement
  • the baby's constant pain from teething all his molars at once
  • my sister's high-risk pregnancy scares
  • etc.

You know, that sort of thing. 

Anyhow...I had a little insomnia (a once in a lifetime thing for me) during the heat wave, and then the baby kept waking up and the big boys went through a week of waking a lot and then I stayed up late by myself to catch up projects and blow off steam.....and then suddenly....

POW. My shoulder went out. 

This morning on the way home from taking A to the train station I was a genuine mess. With a cup of coffee in my system, only two hours after waking up, I was nauseous, impossibly grouchy, aching and so tired I was falling asleep at the wheel on the 10 minute drive back to the house. It turned out the kids dentist appointment was actually tomorrow and the whole day had no commitments. In the driveway, I sat there with my head on the steering wheel and I had an epiphany. I needed rest and space and recuperation and I needed it now. Pretty genius, eh? I know it sounds obvious but it seemed like a real breakthrough in the moment. :)

I set the boys up with a nest of pillows and blankets and a steady stream of gentle Kipper The Dog programming on the floor next to my bed, closed the bedroom door behind all of us to reinforce the cocooning plan and curled up to nurse Pom and myself to sleep. 

I woke up in the afternoon. 

The soft British accents from the boys show in the background, Pom snoring next to me and the quilt all coiled around my jeans and a smile on my face.  I feel so much more crinkly and alive. I am damp wiping down all the floors where there might be paint chip dust, resolving to bathe the baby more regularly, scheduling follow-up blood testing, reading some boosting advice about personal boundaries and loving assertiveness, praying for my sister, scheduling dates with myself and with friends into the calendar, and making piles excess to give away and store. The world will be okay. I will be okay. Sometimes you just have to take a hint when God hits you in the shoulder with a sledgehammer because tapping you on the shoulder didn't seem to really get through. 

Note to Self:  "Must tune in."


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wineberry Harvest

I haven't picked wild wineberries in a couple of years, they are the invasive "raspberry" of our area. They are delicious and roadside abundant and every year I mean to find the time to stop and pick but then the season goes whipping past and I miss it again.

The truth is, folks...if you make time, you have time. I tell that saying to my boys all the time and I aspire to live it out bravely. Today, between appointments with a thunderstorm looming ahead of me and four squirrely boys in the car, I pulled over and picked wineberries.

Stopping insistently to harvest a cupful made me happy all day and here, in the quiet of the sleeping house, eating them with cream and coconut sugar, I feel positively gleeful about my juicy riches. I might need to go out again tomorrow with a basket and snare the same high. The season is still on!

Art Resurgence

I have come full-circle in my artistic endeavors.This past fall I left my art fellowship group where I was painting weekly to attend a homeschool co-op with my boys, devote myself more thoroughly to the forming of curricula and schedules and the role of teacher. I thought I'd figure something out artistically, I thought maybe I could self-power, I thought maybe homeschooling was suddenly going to be overwhelming and exhausting. Sometimes things aren't quite as we think.

Turns out, homeschooling this year was pretty similar to last year. 1st grade is basically like quality preschool (lots of open-ended play, outdoor exploration, lots of fabulous read-alouding, family art projects and lots of rabbit traily "looking things up" at random) with the addition of beginning reading and math instruction. So, A took math...and all that was really new in our life was teaching reading. I decided I could hack it after all...and maybe I didn't HAVE to be part of a co-op but could more generally depend on a homeschool social circle for interesting events whenever we felt like it.

And as for my free-lance art motivation...heh. Its takes a village y'all. I found that I meant to get around to painting, I meant to finish pieces, I meant to replenish my supplies but what really happened was that I painted two pieces all year...and mostly I did nothing and a small piece of me withered inside.

I quit the co-op. We will be part of the homeschool group and join them for Field Trip Fridays and park outings and all the usual birthday parties and holiday celebrations instead. And I re-joined my art group. I am re-committing to taking that little bit of time away, without the kids, devoted to growth and skill development, and especially ear marked for creative expression. I need the excuse of regular time built into my life, a babysitter downstairs to keep the little ones out of my hair and the physical presence of other artists around me fact-checking and evaluating my efforts. So, here's to growth and art and finally finishing this painting that I worked on for most of the school year and just finally completed.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Rugs Bloom In This Heat

When it is hotter than can be believed outside, I hide. While hiding I: read extra, drink inordinate amounts of seltzer with ice and re-discover all the little projects I wanted to accomplish in our house. I have been painting trim like mad and spackling little dings and holes and nail pokes in all the walls. I established a secure relationship with our drill (I can now drill in and reverse out all screws with straight confidence...no fear). I made and hung tissue flowers from the dining room ceiling and then got all inspired and re-organized the pantry. But sometimes the best projects come on you in a fit of random inspiration....

One very lazy day I began to doodle on a plain green carpet I'd picked up at a local tag sale and the paint and doodling just kept on creeping along. Pretty soon there was a long trailing bloom explosion expanding pinkly from one corner of the plain, faded green. I passed through several stages of terrified and exhilerated while painting...worrying by turns that I was destroying the rug or exulting over having really *made* the rug work. I love it. Sometimes you just have to take leaps and do crazy random things because the spirit moved you, urges can be genius.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pom, A Run-Down

Photo credit to my brilliant sister-in-law Brianna. Camera wizard extraordinaire.
Spent the afternoon locked in a cool room with a window a/c unit purring gently in the background. (Thank you, thank you to my charming aunt who came and helped install it!) We curled up on the boys room on the rug indulgently ignoring the laundry and instead, we read stories, Pom climbed on and off his brothers beds and I Pinterested my little soul to bits. I cleaned house mentally, got three quarters of the way through my current novel and then made a long list of things to take the to dump and things to send to Goodwill. Its almost dinnertime now and I am feeling considerably better than before.

And thus, am thinking about a cheery topic...the encapsulation of Pom as small, interesting person of his own. Here he is, in all his 13 month glory....get to know him.

Pom Loves:

  1. Iced coffee. I made the wee mistake of letting him sip a decaf version once on a hot day and now he lunges madly for the cup every time I have one...am in perma-defense mode with cold drink in hand.
  2. Watermelon. Pom can go blow for blow with A in contests over his favorite fruit. Its a summertime special.
  3. Animals. Dogs and birds are both big hits. He gets nervous and can even be shaky and paranoid around them but he won't be kept away from them either so its a magnetically, nervous pull. He giggles and dives for them, imitating barks or chirps but then does a freaked out/giggly retreat and then repeats the cycle over and over.
  4. Water play. He runs for the ocean, isn't afraid of waterfalls, cannot be kept out of a bath and freaks out about being walked past puddles instead of being allowed in post-haste. Love my small mer-man.
  5. Singing. He sings along with any voice he hears on the radio, any goofy song his daddy makes up or any tune at church that strikes his fancy. Love it when we are passing street musicians and he starts "singing" along. 
  6. "Nakedy Time." Every night before bed when all the other kids are in bed we've developed a little ritual together. We take off his dirty clothes, wash up any muddy smudges and add lotion where needed and then let him have a little roll about on our bed in his birthday suit before dressing him up for the night and tucking him in the cradle. Its his favorite. He chortles and pounces on the pillows, coos and giggles plays peek-a-boo with us and then eventually winds down to snuggling and long sleepy blinking and then we know its bedtime. So sweet. Love it. 
  7. Seltzer Water. Ru used to spit it out and his brothers have all had a shudder-and-drool kind of response to bubbly water fizz but not Pom. He guzzles the stuff and begs for more and jockeys to be included anytime some is being drunk near him. He's a baby of culture. 
  8. Silkies. The very fastest and most sure fire way to soothe him when he's cranky, help him cope with teething pain (hello molars!) or get him to sleep is to give him one of my slinkiest slips made of a satiny material. He sucks on them, wadding up the material and shoving it in his mouth....and is vastly pleased. 
  9. Eating Dirt. I never saw a child more enamoured of eating dirt...and I don't mean just tasting it or sucking on his fingers despite their dirty state, he actually scoops handfuls of dirt or sand into his mouth on purpose and if not caught in time will just swish and swallow very happily. Ugh. 
  10. Board Books. He loves to hear a story, maybe its just the rythmic cadence of the sound or maybe he's really comprehending the plot, who knows....he just likes it. He likes to bring books to me and he likes to turn the pages and he loves the lap-time that literary excuses bring.

Pom Distains:

  1. Sitting Down In The Highchair. He really is ridiculously insistent about this one. I continue to expect we'll train him out of his persistent desire to stand or climb out on the tray and put his grubby little feet right onto the table. I have taken to spending the meal holding onto one foot and keeping him pulled down in his seat. Please, say he'll give up soon!
  2. Being Hot. Don't we all? Pom will be extremely irritable whenever the temperature gets to the sweating zone. He wants to nurse, he doesn't want to, he wants to be held, he'd like to be left alone, he wants to be down and crawl around, he is angry that he has been left alone on the floor to fend for himself...etc.etc.etc. Its a no win. Its just too hot.
  3. A, Horning In. He's very attached to me and is quite possessive. We try not to accommodate this one too much but he'd really prefer it if A never kissed me or hugged me or snuggled up with me. I belong to him in his mind and he will fiercely wedge himself in between us if so moved and push and push to get me all cleared off to himself. Silly little dictator.
  4. Horses and Cows. He likes dogs although even they make him nervous. Horses and cows were too much. They make him skip the giggling part and go straight to the blind panic climbing up my arms and then my face. Too big, I think.
  5. Being Buckled In His Car Seat. He usually sits and drives along pretty happily once we're on the road but he thrashed and wedges himself straight, refusing to bend at the waist when I try to buckle him in. Much screaming ensues. 
  6. Being Told, "No" His eyes fill with big crocodile tears and then his face crumples and often he yells back at me "Nah Nah Nah!" and his latest trick is trying to throw punches at me to show how upset he feels at being scolded.
  7. Coming Down The Stairs, In Arms. This isn't a major deal anymore but I still notice it from time to time. He startles when being carried down the stairs. I think he feels gravity and has become aware of falling and realizes that the downward momentum feels dangerous and it makes him nervous.
  8. Most Vegetables. He eats fruits with impunity, has finally come around on meats and will happily eat a fresh bean or pea from the garden while I do yard work but most things I serve at meals (cooked broccoli, carrot sticks, sauteed greens....etc.) become at best a teething toy and at worst are just rejected outright. 
  9. Rain. He loves water and craves swimming and bathing, adores drinking water from a cup and has learned to sign "water" avidly now but water coming down from the sky? Too much. He just gets angry and cries if we ever have to dart through a downpour on our way into a store,
  10. Being Left-Out. He's a classic youngest child, always jockying to be included and watching with a shrewd eye to stay up to the minute on the latest happenings. He wails pitifully when the big boys get candy treats and he is forgotten or there are bikes for bigger boys to peddle and he is left out. He's got a real yen to be part of the pack. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Too Hot For Skin

Its too hot for words. I just keep leaving the house and getting nothing done.
"The Naked Cowboy" a Times Square legend who is probly the only reasonably dressed New Yorker in this heat.
 We go to the library...we go to church...we go to stores...and try not to buy things....or we just drive around with the a/c on or the windows down. In the car we can breathe and the kids can take naps and I don't feel unexplicably angry at ridiculously small infractions. (Its not just me folks...LINK.) But then eventually we have to come home and figure out what to not cook for dinner and find some way to get the kids to settle in their beds and then lie there in the sweating dark trying to sleep ourselves. I am not a girl who deals well with extremes of temperature. I might have to get motivated and hike down from the attic with a window a/c unit and try to install it myself.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Stuck In Panic Mode

Honestly, I'm really friggin' overwhelmed right now.
  • The weather is hotter than the dickens. No a/c sounds kind of salt of the earth but it just stinks right now.
  • The yard is overwhelming me. (too much trimming, mowing, harvesting and watering to do...not to mention fall planting!)
  • I'm out of touch with friends and support. Feeling alone. Drowning. Must rectify.
  • I had my phone stolen...AGAIN...and am consequently without my: calendar, timer, reading list, housework routine, alarm clock, address book and phone list, gps, wrist watch and general contactability. Feel like a modern idiot but that doesn't really fix the honest helplessness of it all.
  • There are far too many boys in this house! I can't seem to get anything done.
  • Have many new house repairs (hello broken windows!) and no new renovation progress since the dining room paint job of yore. Am falling behind in the scores.
  • Am feeling so frustrated with my kids moral development sometimes. How do you teach niceness for crying out loud?!?

So, that's the story. Also, we went camping and pulled ticks off of every single one of us....the grand prize winner being Nib who collected 10! ARGH! SO GROSS!!!! I am tempted to run screaming away from New England tomorrow. I would like to move to Hawaii or else Seattle.

There are however, shasta daisies in quantity....it has to be admitted. It is far too hot to bake things with them but there are berries to pick. (Maybe I will take the boys raspberry picking and we will make cheater ice cream with them?) The library is wonderful and cool and full of happy, comforting stories. I am going out to dinner with a woman friend tomorrow night for a mama date alone. (May there be memorably delicious food and conversation.) I did pick up paint chips today in reference to several projects in the house that I have buzzing around in my brain. I will not be defeated. But man, if you have tips on any of my bullet points...please feel free to chip in.