Not Enough Time in the Day

This is shaping up to be a very long week. Tonight is DD2’s last sewing class for the (fair) year. She’s working on the finishing touches to a shirt as I write and has a counter change smocking project in progress: fabric covered eggs. Hopefully she can finish the first one tonight because I haven’t ever done these. I’m frustrated with the neckline of the shirt. Originally it was to be lined, but her teachers and I scrapped that as her cotton is quite thick. So, we sewed on a facing, which the pattern included, but it’s not laying well. She top-stitched it, but it still sticks up. I think we’ll have to carefully hand sew some anchor points in.

Friday, DD2 has a lesson for cake decorating in which she’s supposed to start decorating her foam cake for the fair. This will only be lesson #3 and getting her to practice is tough. My gut tells me that this will likely be a one time thing. If she doesn’t become more willing, I’m not going to stick my neck out. She’s old enough to take the responsibility of remembering to do things without prompts from me.

DS had a Mexican tasting party today at school. He didn’t plan to ask me to make anything – it’s extra credit if they bring in a traditional Mexican dish- but he’s a good kid. He and I made a batch of Pan Dulces – sweet bread. They were okay, but I don’t plan to make them again. I truly didn’t need the extra work this week, but sometimes you just have to take a breath and do these things.

Our dish washer has been out of commission since Saturday when DH noticed water on two of the ceiling tiles in the basement. I had a full washer waiting to be run, too. It’s been a challenge to keep up with the dishes, especially with the extra baking project and today it was time to make waffles. I wanted to make the kids do them with me, but I find the best times to work on it are the times they’re getting ready in the morning, doing homework, or at school.

My oldest seems to have never-ending homework. I think some of it is self-imposed, but she did take advanced classes. She’s decided to go for an IB degree (International Baccalaureate). I hope I spelled that right. As part of this degree she’ll need to put in 150 volunteer hours. I’ve told her plainly that it is up to her to decide where to volunteer, to log it, and to get the hours she needs. She’s chosen this path, so she needs to be responsible for completing it. It involves a lot and I’m skeptical that it’s the best choice for her. If she were going into a business career, I’d be all over it. But it’s her choice.

DD1 says she want to be an artist. Most specifically, a glass artist. The trouble is, I rarely see her doing art in her free time. My cousin, now an architect, was always drawing something. When we went to their house, we’d see his latest project – an elaborate tree house system for little pom pom pets – end tables made out of stacked bricks and a glass top, usually stacked differently each time we went – garage sale finds made over into treasures – there was always something. DD1 makes chain mail jewelry now and then. She has art supplies galore, a scrapbook and all the trimmings to put in it (still empty two years later, yes she asked for it), cake decorating tools that were asked for and have maybe been used once in three years. I raised the kids doing crafts and we have always had items on hand to create with. I just don’t see the passion to support an art career, but maybe she’ll prove me wrong. She has talent, just doesn’t show drive.

I finally got outside this weekend and did a bit of gardening. My son and I planted asparagus, onions, and garlic, and I got the grapes trimmed back. There’s a lot more to do, but I need time. A little here and there will be better than nothing.

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DD2 got her school work all caught up yesterday! She’s had a few very sensory reactive weeks and it’s been like pulling teeth to get things done. The big incentive is that this time of year, there is a butterfly house open. She can’t go unless all of her school work is up to date, and it’s only open for one more week. The other two kids don’t care that DD2 goes yearly. She likes to spend an hour or more, while they’re done in 5-10 minutes. I take a book and sit on one of the benches while she takes her time. I’m so glad she buckled down and caught up because it would have been misery all around if she’d missed it. Now we have to cross our fingers for a sunny day (the butterflies will be more active).

These past few weeks have been just another affirmation that home school was the right choice to stay with for DD2. She can change subjects when frustrated without waiting for a bell, I can have her laying on the couch with a warm clay pack to do her reading when cramps hit (school would send her home, as bad as she gets with cramps), She can snack while doing her work (frequent snacks keep her body better regulated – lunch is small), and I can wait a couple of days for assignments when she’s struggling. Our high school cuts the grade in half the first day late.

I’ve been trying to think what class to offer at home school co-op next year, but can’t really get excited about it. This year has been frustrating. I understand that this is the one day a week the kids can interact in a ‘school’ setting, but I wish I could get a little more dedication. Some are faithful to their assigned work, others blow it off. I know these kids socially, which makes discipline different than if I were in a public school setting. My own child is included in this criticism. One of our main teachers may not be able to participate next year, and our administrator is not guaranteed either, both due to new jobs. The group has been shrinking, and for me it may actually be a relief if it’s not available.

I’ve already spoken to DD2 about the possibility and have assured her that we would still do things differently on Thursdays here at home. She chose geography for next year, but I also want to do an in-depth study of the Civil War. We covered the American Revolution deeply already, and both of these events were major shapers of our country. If co-op is in session next year, this will be my class, but they won’t get a whole lot out of it if they don’t do the assigned reading.

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Thinking Differently

DH has been getting migraines since high school, but lately they were becoming an almost daily event. He’s had an MRI, CT, plus other tests which can’t show a reason for these migraines. He hit the web and started to see some things connecting gluten with migraines and for the past 3-4 weeks has been keeping the daily gluten intake to a minimum. So far, low gluten has kept him nearly migraine free. He’s had a couple of gluten pig-outs that brought the pain back. It’s not been easy for him to lower his gluten intake, nor has it been easy to change how I think about meal plans and his lunches. Many of his favorite frozen meals are pasta based, and he mostly takes frozen dinners for lunch. The blessing is that he can still have some gluten, or we’d be in a tail spin.

I’m trying to plan meals with only one gluten per meal, while feeding growing kids. Bread has been a saving grace for filling them some nights without blowing the budget. DH seems to tolerate from-scratch gluten items better than processed, so that helps as I bake a lot of items from scratch. There’s always something, isn’t there?

It’s Spring Break for us, and we were going to take a trip, but plans got derailed and we’re home. That’s actually okay with me. We’ve been for three walks at the nature center, saw Cinderella, made shakes and pretzels (different nights), and have eaten out twice. I wasn’t looking forward to two days in the car, and on vacations we tend to take walks of one kind or another and eat out. Hmm. I think we’re doing just fine. DS, with a lot of ‘influence’ from me, got a lot of cleaning accomplished in his room. The closet and surfaces (tops of dressers and bookshelves) need to be tended to, but I haven’t been able to really vacuum in his room for months, so I was thrilled. I was even able to change his sheets today without stepping on things or having to kick things under his bed.

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This morning I happened to look at the clock and see that it was four minutes to when my son would need to start putting on his coat to get to the bus. Then I noticed that he wasn’t downstairs yet. That’s right. He’d crawled back into bed after breakfast. He had four minutes to dress, comb his hair, brush his teeth, and hear me yelling.

For anyone who’s ever seen “Finding Nemo”, this is the moment when we put our hand to our forehead, shake our head back and forth and say sadly, “Dude.” Recently went to Disneyworld and sat through “Turtletalk”, so bear with me.

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DH added a channel to the Roku for me and I’m really enjoying it. It’s “An American Homestead”, about two families (three generations) who move to the Ozarks to live as self-sufficiently as possible. It’s been pretty interesting and I’ll have to check out their website (just add “.com” to the name).

DD2 had sewing last night, and one of the teachers taught smocking. The project is to cover a styrofoam egg with smocked gingham. It’ll be really cute and DD is loving it. I tried my hand at it as well, but haven’t got the touch yet. I’m pulling the gathers too tightly. If her egg comes out well, DD plans to do a couple and put them in the fair. she can then do Christmas balls for next year’s fair and for grandmothers for Christmas. I’ve got plenty of beads if she wants to go fancy after practicing a bit.

I was going to place a seed order, but after going through what I have, decided that I could get by with just purchasing some asparagus plants and garlic sets at our local store. Those are now in the basement waiting for the snow to melt and the ground to be workable. I can add a second variety of asparagus next year. My husband and oldest daughter have developed a liking for it. It grew along the roads where my grandmother lived and I loved going out to hunt for it for her. I didn’t eat it – just found it and cut it. It’s all right and I could eat it (and should, to set an example for the other two kidlets), but am sticking to the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots for now. I barely roast them so that they’re still crunchy. I do not like mushy veg.

I’m hoping to get more produce out of my gardening efforts this year. I protected the apple trees, the grapes should produce (one small cluster last year), and I have plans to try “three sisters” planting with popcorn and green beans – I haven’t decided on whether or not I’ll do the third “sister”. We’re not big on squash. The first two, if you aren’t familiar, are corn with beans planted to climb the stalks (plant when the corn is about 6 inches high). I’ve never tried to grow cauliflower or broccoli either. We’ll see what happens. Last year the popcorn went in a bit late due to a cold spring, then frost came before the popcorn was mature. I would love to get a grow table, but right now there’s just no place to put one.

I’ve been ordering books for home school and think I’m set for next year unless I need a literature book or two. I found teach-yourself algebra, Latin, and Chemistry books along with a geography coloring book. I didn’t see the geography book in person and am slightly disappointed in it (small maps, maps are a little busy), but it has some good information to compliment our textbook and has several flags as well as the maps. We’ll make it work. The algebra and chemistry books will be used alongside regular textbooks. The thinking here is that my daughter does well learning on her own, but a presentation designed for the self-teacher could help clarify more difficult concepts. The Latin is part of her high school veterinary training, so that’s the only book we’ll use. We have several other materials already and some of the literature I have planned is free on her Kindle, some was purchased through library sales.

Our latest library sale yielded a treasure for German class: it’s a sort of travel book on an area in Germany, and the left side of the page is written in German, the right side is in English. She’ll be learning about the country and practicing translation at the same time. It has beautiful photographs as well. She’s done some translating in her German text, but I think this book will need to wait one more year to give her more of a base in vocabulary and grammar.

Part of me would really like to start lesson plans for next year, but the school won’t publish next year’s calendar until May or June, so I’ll have to wait. I keep DD2 on the same schedule as her siblings.

I just got some material washed and it’s waiting to be cut into a shirt for DD2. I try to alternate who I sew for. I did a shirt for DD2, finished DD1’s skirt, now back to DD2. It doesn’t always go this way as sometimes one of them needs quite a bit at one period of time and the other might not need anything. This shirt, and a similar one for DD1 have been in the planning for a couple of years and keep getting put off as they aren’t necessaries. Time to make them a priority. My son mostly wants pajamas. I was about to start a new set for him, when he asked me to wait. He has two old pair on which the pant legs fall mid-calf, but he wants to completely wear them out. No big deal. Toward the end of summer I’ll check in with him. He’s grown about four inches since July and he’s going to need longer pj pants.

Time to go plan some more. I’m not “type A” at all.

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Musings on our Blessings

Yesterday a young man on our street forgot his backpack on the bus home. Not such a calamity in itself until you know that his house key was inside the bag and his parents work until 6pm – the bus drops them off at 2:45pm- and it’s stinking cold outside right now. Fortunately, my oldest daughter walks from the bus with the young man and invited him to wait in our house. I was very glad that she did so as it’s too cold to wait outside one hour, let alone three and a half. It made me realize yet again how fortunate my family is in many ways. This day I was reminded of the blessing of not having to work outside the home. Four out of the five school days, I’m here when my kids get home. The fifth I’m home within an hour at the latest, depending on how my writing students are performing(our home school co-op runs later than public school).

My husband and I have never had to wonder how we would pay the bills or put food on the table. We’ve had debt, but were like minded in paying it off as quickly as possible. My paychecks in those first years went to pay extra on those debts until they were gone. I remember celebrating certain milestones in the savings account that to many would be too small to celebrate. We still prioritize our spending. After twenty years of marriage, we’re just now seriously looking to purchase bedroom furniture for ourselves. Currently, we have a water bed that DH purchased shortly after college, and we have the dresser he grew up with, which is not in wonderful shape. We didn’t do anything previously because we do have something to sleep on and to put our clothing in. The kids didn’t. We had a couch that was held up with a couple of two by fours to make it last until all of the kids were potty trained. I think that reason is self explanatory. So, we do have to consider our large purchases, but we aren’t poor.

We’ve been through occupational therapy with two kids and extensive speech therapy with one, but DH’s employer covered these at 85%. We’ve had counseling sessions for five and half years with our sensory child, but there was some insurance coverage on that, too. Two of the kids have been through braces, and one is yet to have them, but there is a small coverage on those as well as a discount for multiple kids. Everything helps. We’ve been able to pay for these needed services, and it helps that they seemed to stagger a bit. DD2 was able to wait to get braces until after DD1’s were paid off. DD2’s are now paid off before our son is ready for his. DS ended his speech therapy just before DD2 started occupational therapy.

We are in a wonderful church. It’s like going to a (good) family reunion every Sunday. This church body is ready to be there for each other when need arises. That can mean taking a meal to someone who’s ill, cleaning for someone recovering from surgery, helping someone move, praying for each other, and when families have had great need there have been anonymous collections for them. It’s a family by choice, and you can’t help but feel the love. I grew up in a church that was fairly cold, so I do have a frame of reference.

I grew up in a two parent home and so are our children. That’s becoming harder to find. Our family isn’t perfect, but show me one that is. Instead of sending the kids off to summer camps, day or regular, we put the money toward family vacations and have been able to create fantastic memories together. I love seeing new places, but seeing them with the kids seems to make it better.

Our kids have tender hearts. They care about the people around them and each other. No amount of money can create that. They are also not materialistic. Of course they ‘want’ the current gadgets and such, but they don’t beg or whine for them, and don’t complain when these items don’t appear under the Christmas tree. They are truly happy with a stack of paper. One year my son was given a bunch of cardboard for his birthday from my parents (yes, they had asked for ideas and I told them this would be a hit). Mom saved round pieces from frozen pizza, boxes of all shapes and sizes, and added a bit of tape. She had been a little hesitant, not fully trusting that this would be a winner, but the reaction they got proved how much it was appreciated. This crew of mine is truly thankful for the things they have and receive. They also have wonderful imaginations and use them frequently.

Many times I am thankful that we no longer live in the big city areas. It’s good to be in a smaller town with a half acre lot. We’re on a friendly cul-de-sac and our kids can ride their bikes without us feeling the need to watch them constantly. I miss being in the country some times, but never the cities. That was fine when it was just DH and I, but not with a family.

It’s just good to be reminded of the blessings in our lives, big and small.

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It Doesn’t Take That Much More Time

I’ve heard this phrase many times in the past few months and it’s starting to annoy me. I know, it’s hard to imagine me getting annoyed, but just go with it for a minute:)

This worn out phrase is usually spewed out when referring to cooking something from scratch instead of a box/can/packaging of choice. In many cases, it is indeed true that scratch is only a few more minutes. The big BUT here is that the phrase is most commonly being used in the argument to eliminate processed foods from your diet (to be healthier, more self-sufficient, etc.), so you’re not talking about one or two items a week now being made from scratch, but shifting the balance to doing the majority of your cooking and baking from scratch. Five minutes here and there add up quickly.

Plucking a box of frozen waffles from the freezer section of the grocery store takes seconds. My family loves waffles and I started making them from scratch and freezing them three or four years ago. It takes an hour to make one batch, and I’m not consulting a recipe card any more. There are days when I dread that hour, even though I know the waffles are healthier, cheaper, and tastier than those from the store.

Making pizza (with my recipe) includes an hour and a half for the dough to rise, plus the time to make the dough and prep the toppings. That’s much more involved than calling your favorite pizzeria.

Some of my bread recipes tie up several hours. Even quick breads can take an hour or more, prep plus bake time.

Okay – now the argument will come up that you can work on something else while that bread is in the oven, or rising, or while the waffles are in the iron, etc. This is true, but you still answer to the timer, and you have to plan more. You have to either know the recipes decently, or read ahead to know your time frames for prep, rising, etc. then plan accordingly. As a new or expanding scratch cook/baker, you have to learn/hone planning of your tasks. Again, this takes a “just a few extra minutes.”

I do think we Americans eat too much processed food these days and I count myself among the guilty. We don’t yet know the health consequences which are developing from this as it’s a relatively new problem. Those born in the fifties, and part way into the sixties, were still raised with kitchen gardens and scratch cooking. My parents remember that the grocery stores only had produce according to season and canning was huge in their mothers’ kitchens.

I guess the phrase bugs me because over the past few years I have been increasing the items made from scratch and I know how much less time my days have. I would hate for anyone to feel that doing more from scratch is too intimidating to even start, but please don’t trivialize the extra time that will disappear. Many families today hit the drive thru a couple of times a week (I’m being generous here- I know there are some families eating out four or five times a week due to crazy schedules), and cooking anything could be a big change.

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