Thursday, October 23, 2014

Breakfast to Dinner


You know it's been a good day when the bookends of the day are molasses spice cookies (with coffee with cinnamon) in the morning and pumpkin bread at bedtime!  It has occurred to me that in this space it appears that we eat primarily desserts, which would be slightly misleading.  We do enjoy our baked goods, though.  But just for the sake of balance, here are some pictures of a tasty fifteen bean soup I like to make whenever we have a ham bone and some leftover ham pieces in the fridge.  The big kids have about a spoonful each with coercion, but Ben, the babies and I love it, and it makes plenty of leftovers.  And once it sits in the fridge for a day or two, it thickens slightly, and tastes delicious in a seven layer dip, so how's that for versatility?

It has been chilly and rainy these past couple of days.  The type of weather that makes you want to stay inside all day, which, come to think of it, is pretty much what we did.  I set the girls up with a pumpkin bread mix in the kitchen and challenged them to cooperatively make the bread entirely by themselves, and they succeeded with flying colors!  The only thing I did was pull down a bowl, a spatula, and then place the finished product in the oven.  See, this having kids gets easier and easier with time, and before you know it, they're baking you pumpkin bread!  (Note: that was yesterday.  Today the girls couldn't even take a bath without a conflict arising.  Hrmph.)

And while I'm still talking about baked goods, those spice cookies were really tasty.  They actually call for pepper, which I was quite skeptical of at first, but yielded a very tasty lingering flavor that didn't taste like pepper at all.  I'll add them to my list of tasty things with weird ingredients like black bean brownies.

I've been on a project to accumulate cloth napkins at the thrift store the past few months: my criteria was mainly something that wouldn't show stains (aka: with a pattern and not white) and made from a non-fussy and durable material.  We have quite the hodgepodge, but it has been a success, and I am glad not to be dealing with paper napkins anymore.  The added bonus is since they are unique and distinct from one another, we can remember which one someone used from one day to the next and don't have to wash them with each use.

And I must say a word about Hugo, who, as he reminds me throughout the day, is on my team.  "We're on a team today, Mommy!" He'll exclaim upon awaking in the morning.  And then he will ask to kiss me, and hug me, and walk around from one person to the next doing the same. He has so much love.  He says the most hilarious little things during these flurries of affection like, "You are so honored for me, Daddy!"  We don't even know what it means, but it is said with much love and energy and this little boy is the sweetest.  He also has such strong feelings about little things like, I don't know, which cup he gets at dinner.  We are always trying to help him out through involving him in what's going on, or asking him beforehand which he wants, or reducing the choices being offered (insert parenting advice of choice here), but sometimes he's simply frustrated and upset.  The trails of being three and a half.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Just barely

::The mantel is full with seven little pumpkins and our fall corn husk angel.

  ::This is what the laundry looks like after it is folded.  I have learned that piles of clothing categories work best, especially given the fact that three of the kids dress themselves, and clothes will get jumbled in their drawers anyway.  It may not meet the approval of Martha Stewart, but it works just fine around here!  I should note that when my mom comes to babysit, despite our urging, she always ends up folding all the laundry, in which case it is much more tidy.  Maybe there's hope for me down the road.

::The other day we got some little push toys for the twins, and Dorothy immediately pulled up and started pushing around.  With each step it looks like she will just barely stay up, but then she takes another, and another.  Her three eldest siblings, watching from the sidelines, burst into the most genuine, heartfelt, loud applause.  There was cheering and clapping and jumping and smiling and yelling from joy.  The jubilation continued for the duration of her pushing around the living room, and she just stared from face to face with the biggest grin, clearly quite proud of herself.  It was one of those moments that filled my heart to the brim for these siblings that love and encourage one another.  

::Clara, on the other hand, is quite happy just to pull up and stand.  She does this for many seconds before collapsing back down on her bum.

::Bath time has often moved into the afternoons, which is a great activity for a family full of people who love to take baths.  Our schedule doesn't allow for it every day, but when it works out, our evenings seem to be more relaxed, and bath time can last for a little longer, which makes everyone happy.

::I tried this apple pie the other day, and it was tasty!  Sour Cream Apple Pie, doesn't that peak your interest?  I'm not ready to abandon a regular old apple pie, but it was a big hit, and a nice way to spice things up (no pun intended) during this abundant apple season.

::Some beautiful fall flowers from Ben's parents, who came by this weekend for the first time since Ben's mom's hip replacement surgery earlier this month.  

::The  babies are almost exclusively finger fed, which works pretty well for the sake of practicality, but has meant a shift in how we feed our babies.  Usually, we just keep a food grinder at the dinner table and mix up whatever we're having.  But for these babies, favorites are cubes of cheese, frozen vegetables (eaten frozen!), tiny pieces of apples or grapes, and goldfish.  I would say they have pretty hearty appetites.

::We enjoyed our first outdoor fire of the season, which means fall is really here!

::I have finally picked up some knitting: a red sweater for Hugo, who is the only child of mine who currently does not have a single handknit item.  Red, because it's his favorite.  Spidey colors, you know.  It feels so good to be knitting, and even when much of my daily work is immediately undone (dishes? laundry? tidied living room?), I can look down on a few rows of knitting and know that these will stay put for quite some time.

::And in another indicator of fall season, we have started bundling these babies up!  I have learned that when cold weather strikes, the way to go is a fleece warm suit that has flaps to cover both hands and feet.  There's no way babies can kick off shoes or pull of mittens, and it has a hood, so they're good to go. I ordered a couple for the babies thinking that I was planning way far into the future and then bam, the weekend hit us with temperatures in the 40s.  I think it's going to be another chilly winter!  I have always been a huge autumn lover, leaning unhesitatingly into the cooler days and beautiful colors.  Fall is spectacular in Virginia.  But I must admit, this year these seasonal changes are striking me with a tint of melancholy.  Shorter days, changing seasons, there's a way that they bring on a feeling of solitude that can be rejuvenating or lonely depending on how you receive them.  My prayer is that each day I will reach towards rejuvenation and gratitude.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sabbath



We've been thinking about what it means to make Sunday a day of rest.  The idea of rest is very appealing when you are chasing after nine month twins, I'll give you that. But in a larger sense, setting aside Sunday as a day of rest gives a beautiful rhythm to the week.  An order.  And doesn't it make sense that God created it to be just so, presenting us with this gift of sabbath, knowing that we, just like God, need rest.

We have been taking small steps to set Sunday aside.  The easy part is spending time together.  We have always been a family that prioritizes family time over a lot of other good things: sports, hobbies, exciting adventures, even time with friends or at organized church activities.  It might be going for a walk, a bike ride, reading together or playing a game, but more often it's just embarking upon our own little projects and games in one another's company.  I love the picture above, which has everyone at the table doing different things: Ben is feeding babies, Zosia is helping Lily with homework, and Hugo, not pictured, is across the table peeling labels off of fruit (awesome way to keep a three year old occupied for thirty minutes!).  It's a great example of what I mean about being together but embarking upon our own projects.  

The tricky part is making our time together restful for everyone, especially as two adults who have five little children in their charge!  Fun is the easy part, restful is harder.  This past Sunday, late in the afternoon, I realized I had not gotten off of my feet yet that day.  And I hadn't really been doing anything aside from the regular day-to-day stuff of having a big family (getting kids dressed for church, feeding little people lunch, going to pick out a few pumpkins and mums at the garden center)!  I had made sure to pick out a simple dinner I could get started in the morning, and tried to get ahead on housework during the week.  Ben swooped in and gave me time for a fifteen minute catnap, which always seems to do the trick, and that gave me a feeling of rest amid activity.  

But here's the thing: I know that it is possible to actually rest, in a kick up your heels sort of way.  I did it when I was pregnant with the twins (just this time last year, come to think of it).  But making the decision to rest in a setting that has a lot going on, whether it's two members of a couple pursuing demanding careers, families where both parents are working (I don't know how you do it, guys!), a single parent, or a bustling family just like ours, does mean letting go of things being "just so," and for our current stage in life, a little extra planning.  It also means saying no to a great many things, which is hard!

I am hoping that with time, our small efforts will start to shift the way that things feel.  I would love to find a sense of peace and order at whatever stage of life we might find ourselves, and I really do believe that taking a sabbath is one of the keys.  

Have any of you tried or succeeded in making Sunday a day of rest?  What does it look like for you? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In Focus

::The sweaters I made for the twins before they were born still fit (the silver lining to having a large gauge, I guess?)!  Which is perfect, because I am only now finally feeling like it would be nice to have something on my needles to work on here and there, and my wrists feel up to the task, too.  A few weeks after the twins were born, I noticed that my wrists were killing me.  I learned, after a chat with my doctor, that this is a common experience in the postpartum period.  Sore wrists, who knew!  Because it was quite debilitating for a bit (imagine wrangling two newborn babies with one non-functional wrist), he gave me a cortisone shot to tide me over, and told me that once the babies were mobile, the wrist pain would likely disappear on its own.  Well, I would say we're at least a few weeks away from walking (pleasepleaseplease), but my wrists feel fine, and I am itching for a knitting project to make the best of it.

::Lily is home on Fridays, and I think Hugo's heart is on the verge of bursting from all of the play, love and attention he receives from her each and every time.  There is nothing more magical than an older sibling's love!  I would almost say it's easier to have her around than to have her at school, but as with any creative spirit, our home is filled with improvisational projects whenever this artiste is in the vicinity.  Did you know that oats, water, and thyme can be thrown together (unbeknownst to any authority figure) to create a sort of play dough?  No need to designate a special area, your living room will do.  Invite your siblings to join you and just enjoy the messiness!  These are the instructions Lily would write down if this were her blog.  There is a lot of cleanup.  And delightfulness.

::Ben keeps threatening that he is going to make these babies pay their rent through a career in modeling.  He has a point, we just might be able to make a small fortune (twins, you guys!).  But I'm thinking that we'll just keep them home for now.  Dorothy, left, and Clara, right.

::A few little reminders of my sweet eldest: a "to do" list for a Saturday morning (can you see it on the wall next to that birdie picture? My favorite part is the specificity of the timing), and a picture of Jesus, both on display in the dining area.  These little gifts, left here or there, never fail to make me smile.


::Clara is a bit of a ham, smiling for any old person, camera, or thing.  But just so you know, Dorothy is a smiley thing, too.  See?  There's picture proof.

I wish I could say that our whole week has been exclusively easy and relaxing.  In truth, there have been some moments that have been difficult.  Moments that are not my own to share, but have filled us with worry and fear, the pain of watching someone you love going through a difficult ordeal.  Why is it always such a difficult lesson to learn that God truly is loving and nurturing us even in the midst of trials and uncertainty?  Especially, even.  God is there.  Jesus is there.  I know it is true.  And I think that is why on a week like this, even more so than those picture perfect weeks, it nurtures me to look back at those moments that are filled with grace, seeing God in our midst, clearly in focus.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The World's Best



Whenever I am looking online for a recipe, I always preface my search with "the world's best."  Beef soup?  "The world's best beef soup."  Apple crisp?  "The world's best apple crisp."  I would say that about half the time when I'm cooking, I fly by the seat of my pants, trying to remember any tricks I might have learned along the way, a quarter of the time I use a tried and true recipe from an old fashioned cookbook, and a quarter of the time I go ahead and make the world's best.  I mean, if it's available as an option, why not, right?

And even though this is probably one of the more ridiculous things that I do (and will occasionally land you on some dodgy website leaving you to wonder why, exactly this is the world's best?  I mean, what governing body actually chose this recipe?  How does the internet work, anyway??), it has yielded astonishingly good results!  This is how I have found both my pulled pork recipe, and my chocolate chip cookie recipe, both of which, I venture to say, are actually the world's best.  I would say they're my signature dishes, actually!

So yesterday when I wanted to try something new when roasting a chicken (which I do practically every week on auto pilot, yielding tasty results), I utilized my tried and true internet trick and.............drumroll please..............it was pretty awesome!  I was stunned to see that they ask you to roast the chicken at 450 (!) for an hour, and even more surprised by the simplicity of the recipe, but it was delicious in the end, and there was scarcely enough meat left on the bones to make a stock.  So there you go, the world's best roast chicken.

The past week or two, we have settled into a really wonderful rhythm that leaves a lot of time for reading to Hugo, time for nature walks, and even a regular laundry routine (which indubitably results in baskets of laundry all around the house, which I am embracing as a sort of ordinary beauty).  We have been wearing long sleeves and making soups and curries for dinner, and I am once again remembering that fall is my *favorite* season of all.  What a wonderful turning inward: into our homes, relationships, selves.  Happy fall, friends!