Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gigantic blow-out catch-up post for the entire month of July

July 2015 . . . holy smokes . . . what a month.  What a doozy.

It started off with Jamie's plunge into a secondary infection from a minor cold, which took him out for three weeks.  Including the initial cold and in-between time where he never quite "came around" (he seemed tired and lackluster), it was an entire month.

It started with waking up from a nap with a fever on Thursday, 7/2.  My parents were supposed to come that Friday, but delayed arrival until Sunday (they were visiting with my grandparents in Wisconsin, so they were settled in nicely anyway).  The entire week they were here, he was completely subdued and touchy - going to bed at 7:00 PM, napping by 10:30 AM - he was a non-factor in almost everything.  It was sad.

Saying goodbye - Jamie wouldn't be in the picture

The secondary infection was in his lungs and sinuses - all the usual tricks I employ to treat such issues were useless against it.  It seemed as if I couldn't get anything to drain.  It just took time.

The week after my parents left, the congestion in his lungs slowly cleared, but not before a double ear infection manifested itself.  That week was spent focused on ensuring that Jamie took warm baths with rosemary oil to promote drainage, administering garlic oil and applying a hot water bottle to his ear three times daily to nix the ear infection, and making sure that the vaporizer was running with eucalyptus oil in the room while he slept so he could breathe more easily.  He was pale and thin, but sleeping and playing more normally in spite of the pain.

Eventually the pain subsisted and the congestion s-l-o-w-l-y cleared.  Amazingly, Blaine, Diego, Truen, and myself all had sore throats that week (and Jamie and Eliah never got it, thank the good Lord).  He still had blood in his nose from his sinuses and, toward the end of the week, we noticed that several lymph nodes in his neck were swollen and tender.  And still are.  Un-un-un-un.  Will it never end??

We are starting to move outside the house again - we were able to attend the last Park & Rec of the season this Monday and go swimming afterward.  Finally! Swimming, imagine that. The boys reveled in it.  I'm starting to think that I'll need to take the boys swimming for an afternoon each week in addition to our all day Beach Day extravaganzas on Fridays to make up for lost time.

Otherwise, life has been a whole lot of this --

Collards and broccoli
Black currents, kale, peas, turnips
Beautiful Cylindra beets

Our gardens are MAGNIFICENT this year.  It is truly "the best year ever".  Though we've said it before, it honestly tops everything we've accomplished in the past.  We've caught our groove.  The years of experience have dovetailed with our vision and enthusiasm and culminated with an amazing creation.  Blaine, of course, is the mastermind.  Without him, I would be just "pretending to garden" as a friend put so aptly.

Florence fennel, parsley, celery
 Onions (left), garlic (right), then summer squashes, cucumbers
Lettuce gone to seed, broccoli; behind that, the raspberries

:: THE WEST GARDEN (from the south) ::
Corn, cauliflower, and cabbages
Scallions, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, beets

:: THE WEST GARDEN (from the north) ::
Turnips and rhutabagas
Salsify, parsnips, kale, collards, mustard, peas,
Lettuce, carrots, winter squash, sunflowers
(the giant mass on the right is bittersweet)

The West Garden is our main kitchen garden this year.  In the past, it was for summer and winter squashes, melons, and garlic; but we made the switch out of necessity to starve out the grasshoppers that were plaguing the East Garden.  (And succeeded! They are not an issue this year at all.)  We doubled its size, fenced it, and hit the ground running.  It has been an enormous success.

How do I love thee, West Garden?  Let me count the ways.  First and foremost, it is so lovely to look out the window and see such ordered beauty, tangible results of a lot of hard work.  The East Garden is tucked behind the garage and much less visible.  The West Garden also gets much more sunlight, from morning to dusk, with no trees shading it at all.  The soil seems to be rich and fertile, the weeds, not a problem.  And I don't mind the walk one bit.

We also carved out a section in what I call "The Front Four": four acres along our driveway on the north side of our property.  It is currently in alfalfa and will be planted with oats this fall.  We are experimenting with The Front Four and planted winter squash there this year.  It is growing beautifully and plan to use it for squash, garlic, and onions next season.

Our geese this year: five white Embdens
They are so funny!  They are curious and like to follow us around the orchard,
which is exactly what they were doing this lovely morning.

The boys have been housebound pretty much the entire month of July.  Other than our houseguests, we haven't gone anywhere, gone swimming, and missed all the Story Hour and Park & Rec activities for the month.  Such a bummer.

They've still been outside a ton, however.  The big excitement last week was catching frogs.

Truby, pretending.
He caught the hugest frog of all! 

Diego, not pretending.
This is so him: always taking it to the next level.
("No frogs were hurt during the making of this video.") 

Jamie, hopping on the bandwagon.
See how pale and thin he looks?  Ugh.

And Yi-ya.  I still use my Ergo every. single. day.

We've also had a lot of tea party action going on in these parts. Truen has been the main promoter.  It is so cute - they set up the table upstairs and we drink tea or kombucha, eat dried fruit and nuts and toast, and sit with a lighted candle.  It is oh-so-cozy.

Truen and Jamie
Eliah, Truen, and Diego

We also had more friends to visit last week - Lyndi and Jen with her girls.  

The entire tempo of the household tamed with girls present. It was amazing.  They set up house in the bedroom upstairs, pulled out their coloring books and markers, and colored.  Jamie sat with them, almost transfixed, sometimes coloring, sometimes just sitting and watching.

A sweet crew
This is what happens when I ask Diego to take pictures.
I end up saying, "Will you please take a picture of all of us...?" 
as he hones in on all of our faces one at a time and snaps away.
The pictures always end up so funny, but it is stressful at the time as we w-a-i-t
and there is usually baby fussing or howling to add to the commotion.

The ladies: Shawna, Jen, and Lyndi.
Me with my exasperated and impatient face
"Will you just..??"

And finally, Jamie the Chef with his little helper Eliah Len.  Jamie has been keenly interested in working in the kitchen in the last couple of weeks.  Per his request, we've made pancakes twice, french toast, scrambled eggs, and . . . something else?  I can't remember. He's been begging to make a frozen banana-chocolote-peanut treat that I think we'll probably end up making tonight.

And Yi-ya is always right there, 
insisting on being right in the thick of it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


  • Collectively, we've been sick three times in two months, all upper respiratory infections, and this last one has a deep, nasty cough to go along with it.  I just can't wait until it is done. It is oh-so-very unpleasant to miss out on summer with coughing, hacking, and lethargy.
  • Not to mention all the screaming and ill-tempered fighting.  I've kept Eliah in the backpack for a good part of the part two days, mostly to keep him from rooting up turmoil wherever he goes.  He is calmed by being with me and on my person, while I am still able to accomplish my tasks at hand.
  • Speaking of . . . I am feeling somewhat mournful over just that: the endlessness of my tasks at hand: the bulldozer effect that inhibits enjoying my little guys with more leisure.  For the first time, I really understand my mom's admonition that she remembers my younger years much better than my sister's, 11 years younger than me.  Life is a blur with so many needs to meet.  I feel sad about it.  The blur.
 He was so pleased about this tree
  • I am full-bore in the thrust of planning for our little homeschool for 2015-2016.  It has been a lot of fun - I can tell I am getting better at it.  I have a better sense of the rhythm of our days, how to plan it out, what to expect.  I am also very excited for our new material: literature, poetry, nature study, history.  We will be delving into "early modern times" and studying the beginnings of the US, as well as what was going on in the surrounding world at the time.
  • I am totally sold on Festina Lente in my growing philosophy of education, to "make haste slowly" - the idea of not cramming it all in, but letting it slowly settle.  Not trying to conquer or cover everything, but following a slow, well-trodden path.  Saturation vs. sprinkling.  I love it.
 Playdough festival
  • We made playdough the week before last.  Each boy got to pick out his own color and spent hours over the course of a couple of days cutting, rolling, lumping, and bumping.  It was great fun. And a good table-time activity for a menagerie of sickies.
  • Blaine made the boys a tree house in a younger ash in the tree-line along our driveway.  Truen picked it out on a day that Blaine was planting pumpkins in our "front four" acres.  We are carving out a section (currently in alfalfa) as a test-run.  Truen perched himself in a tree to watch and realized it was the perfect spot.  
  • Truby has been talking about tree houses for so long that Blaine decided to bite the bullet and just do it finally.  He cobbled together a nice little platform from scrap lumber.  Three boys can be up there at a time, but we are sticking to a Two Boy rule.  We can just picture them starting a tussle if there were more than two at a time.  
  • And actually, if Diego and Jamie are together alone longer than just a few minutes, sometimes [what feels like] just a few seconds, fights inevitably break out.  They are currently under quarantine from each other and can only play together if udder brudders or friends are involved.  Seriously.  It is bad.
  • I am still working on nailing down time for Mother Culture.  I've found that I can only read Pride and Prejudice before bed, otherwise my mind wanders (and it isn't too long before it shuts down completely at that time of night anyway).  Dakota is best read while I'm eating, otherwise I feel antsy, and Home Education is best in the morning before anyone else is awake. It isn't a daily guarantee, but I am slowly pecking away at them.
  • It has been very interesting to re-read Pride and Prejudice and Dakota as a woman of 37, instead of a girl of 20 (P&P) and a young woman of 27 (Dak).  My sense of insight and understanding is undoubtedly deeper. I love noticing that.
  • I have also started a commonplace book to keep track of myself while I read: thoughts, insight, significant passages, excellent quotes.  It pleases me.  I picked the Pegasus Decomposition Book for added whimsy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Straight from the horse's mouth

I read the following poem aloud during lunch today --

Hear what the mournful linnets say
Hear what the mournful linnets say:
"We built our nest compact and warm,
But cruel boys came round our way
And took our summerhouse by storm.

"They crushed the eggs so neatly laid;
So now we sit with drooping wing,
And watch the ruin they have made,
Too late to build, too sad to sing."

~ Christina Rossetti
   Ambleside Online: Christina Rossetti Poems 

As I read it, it struck me as a good, subtle teaching moment for my boys.  After I finished, Jamie exclaimed, "Hey! We are in this poem!"

Not that Jamie is a particular menace to bird nests at this point in the game, but he is being schooled by a chronic, reoccurring case of I-can't-resist-itis in his biggest brudder.  Truen is intrigued by baby birds, but no one is driven by the desire to ransack bird nests like Diego. 

I could see a look of recognition in Diego's face. It will be interesting to see if this new idea, so beautifully written, bears any fruit in his thoughts or actions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


  • We had an expander installed into Diego's mouth last week to widen his palate and make room for all his teeth to grow in.  The reason for it: Can we be well fed, but malnourished? The teeth tell the tale.  His appliance looks identical to the one pictured.  I am convinced that this is the crux of the issue for all of us.
  • Our garden looks absolutely magnificent, much more prolific and successful than we've ever experienced.  Or at least that is what we are crowing to each other.  There are always some losses, but this year seems to be 100% success.  Thus far.  (Fingers crossed!)  It feels terrific to have it back.
Jamie with a gosling in mid-May
  • Our half-grown chicks and goslings are also "the best ever!".  They put themselves into the coops by themselves at night, something that has never happened this early or smoothly.  We have had to physically catch-and-place half-grown chicks into the coop for what felt like weeks (and attempt to "teach them" how to use the roost until they finally get it into their pea-brains) and have always had to herd the geese up into their coop every. single. night in years' past.  It is such a relief to do nothing more take a pleasant walk to latch the door every night. The chicks even figured out the roost by themselves this year.  Smart bunch.
  • An interesting side-note on keeping geese: we've noticed that the grass in our orchard has grown stronger in the three years we have kept geese.  It was pretty much a weed-pit when we first moved in, but keeping grazing animals on it has improved the space dramatically.  The grass is thick and it looks like a pleasant place to walk vs. a place to avoid.
They are just so cute

And friendly and endearing and hardy.
(Until they are grown, then they hiss and menace)

  • You'll noticed I put two new side-bars up: Mother Culture and Favorite Podcasts.  The latter is self-explanatory.  My SIL sent me her old iPod and the rest is history.  I am so grateful to have the break and thoughtfulness to keep me company while I work in the kitchen.
  • Mother Culture is a concept I've been familiar with, but have just recently decided to get serious about in my own life.  This season of life does not afford the leisure of reading for pleasure unless it goes on The List and is made room for.  So make room for it I will.  Brandy's posts have been a great inspiration.
  • So with that in mind, I picked three books that I am working through at a snail's pace.  It does make sense to have three in the running, because the snippets of time available to read are not always conducive to one particular book; it is better to have something to pick from based on my frame of mind and availability.  Two of the books I've already read, but have wanted to re-read (Pride and Prejudice and Dakota) and I've also already read a portion of the third (Home Education).  Baby steps.
  • This week is Kid Chore Boot Camp at our house (inspired by Mystie at Simply Convivial, et al).  Same song, new verse: I am amping up chores at our house.  With hindsight, I see that this has been a several year process and it is paying off richly.  It is so nice to have the responsibility spread across the divide, rather than drowning in endless duty and sheer mess created by four active boys.  They are getting used to it and while they do still moan, most days they do their chores without much complaint or even many reminders to stay on track.  I am thankful.
  • They are now responsible for an expanded set of Morning Chores: in addition to pre-breakfast chores and clearing their spot, they are expected to rinse and put dishes into the dishwasher, sweep, and have one big morning chore each day of the week: fold/put away laundry, vacuuming, vacuuming, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.  I am having them team up on the vacuuming jobs, but have separated bathroom duty: Diego cleans the toilet, Truen cleans the sink and mirror, Jamie has the bathtub.
  • I also assigned Diego to solo dishwasher duty.  Truen is now doing cat litters daily, including litter-bucket dumping and sweeping (something that Blaine was still doing on weekends up until this week).  Awesome.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

E-yi-ya is two

Our Eliah is two years old.  He still feels like our baby.  He's so little by comparison.  So we carry him around on our hips, baby-talk him, cuddle him close, and refer to him as "the baby".

This little rascal usually refuses to eat during most mealtimes and instead insists on nursing, something Baby Truen did as well.  His frame is small like Truen's too, though he is taller than Truby was at this age.  He's got the most beautiful {milk} chocolate brown curls.  He has his daddy's hair.  And I don't think these are just baby curls . . . I'm pretty sure they are here to stay.  They are so much tighter than either Diego or Truen's baby curls.

He asks, "Jamie?", "Truby?", "Dada?" every morning, wondering where they are.  "They're asleep (or at work)," I tell him.  (He can say "Daygo" too, but never wonders where he is in the mornings for whatever reason.)  Yi-ya gets up at the crack of dawn, usually right around 6:43 AM, sometimes earlier, rarely later.  We snuggle and nurse and read books - it is the only time of the day where I am able to be 100% focused on him and him alone, such precious time for us.

His favorite books are Babies by Gyo Fujikawa, Here We Go! (a vintage 1982 board book), My Little Word Book (a gift from "the Hotdogs" for Baby Diego) and all the "Babyfaces" board books like Smile!, Peek-a-boo!, and Hugs & Kisses.

And this kid, with gum, is amazing.  Blaine gave him a piece last week in the mid-afternoon; I blanched, but didn't fight it, figuring it was just one tiny piece.  Heck, it seems like Jamie was eating gum just last year.  But this guy took to chewing gum like he had always done it.  He chewed that sucker until we went to bed that night and took it out while he ate.  Un-un-un-un.

His favorite game is Hide!, where he likes to cover our heads with his chickie blankie and whisper "Hide! Hide! Hide!" excitedly.  He loves the slide at the park (and at home) and goes down fearlessly.  He'll even play the older brudders' slide game, where they crash into each other and writhe all over the slide in a giant, giggling mass.

He loves his chickie blankie, the one made by Gramma S.  He will go and get it, hand it to one of us, then turn around and expect to be wrapped up in it to snuggle.  This has been our morning ritual for months now, but he also does it when he is sleepy or needs a cuddle.

He likes to "write" like his big brudders, but his artwork extends to the table, walls, or any other flat surface.  He also like to eat the erasers and chomp on the lead.  Needless to say, the pencils are out of his reach unless a'nudder brudders leaves one down (which happens often) and I often have rescue it from his little chomper.  No pencil is safe in his little hands. He even requested to have one this weekend, asking for a "fen-ho".  I had to have him show me to even understand what he wanted.

He is fully potty-trained and has moved to being out into public settings without a diaper.  I'm not sure if he was the easiest to potty-train or if it was just my experience level that made it seem that way, but he did great.  His little buns are so cute.  I love that diaper-less butt.  (And I love. love. LOVE. not having to wrangle diapers anymore. I was so done.)  He's waking up dry from naptime and most mornings too.

He's starting to be interested in big boy games and toys.  He likes to build with Duplo and Mega blocks and has the same loud soundtrack as all his brudders while he plays.

He has also replaced Jamie as the super-pest when it comes to getting into his brudders' set-ups and scenery as they play.  He wants to do everything that they do, right that very second.  Most fights with Jamie end in screaming, with Eliah being pushed down hard, or Yi-ya biting Jamie's head.  The bigger brudders usually just carry him to another room or drop him off with me.

He loves "washing dishes", balls, snuggling, running around with his brudders, kitties, our baby chickies and goslings, horses ("hohshies!) and cows viewed as we drive along, and his "Bupas".  (He refers to both sets of grandparents as a unit. Not "Bupa and Bupa", but simply "Bupa".)

And of course, he is obsessed with "helping" in the kitchen, especially if a big brudder is there.

Eliah is two.  What a little fella. ♥

Friday, May 29, 2015

A lovely rhubarb sauce

We've been enjoying eating out of the garden again: lettuce, spinach, scallions, parsnips, cilantro, dill, rhubarb.  It has been so delicious and quite refreshing, such a nice change of pace from the winter's cabbage salads and sauerkraut.

My favorite treat this spring has been rhubarb sauce, sweetened with raisins and dates.

Rhubarb Sauce
  • 1-1.5 lbs of rhubarb
  • A big handful of raisins, chopped
  • A small handful of pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 cloves
  • 2-ish cups boiling water

:: Chop the rhubarb and combine everything in a pot that "just fits", pouring boiling water up to the half-way point.

:: Bring to a boil, then let simmer 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb has broken down into a saucy consistency.

:: Enjoy warm or cool, with butter and maple syrup or coconut oil and honey.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Contingency plan the thousandth

I thought more about my What a diff post and realized that, duh, I now have FOUR children, ages ranging from 2 years old to almost 10 years old. 

In 2009, I "only" had two children, an almost 4 year old and a two year old.  Wow.  Double the laundry, double the food prep, quadruple the clean up and fighting.

No wonder.  One would have thought that was obvious.

Not to mention that they are all boys, energy abounding, with a preference for wrestling and racing all around, led by the oldest boy who has freely admitted that he stirs things up to a frenzied pitch on purpose if and when he gets "bored".

Or the fact that I am trying to keep up with a preschooler and a toddler while simultaneously trying to stay on top of a homeschooling schedule for a 9 and 7 year old.


The one thing I have to remember, always remember, please please please remember, is that life is constantly changing; and with that, I have to be continually adapting to keep the pace.  It is hard, as I usually feel like I am adjusting woefully late in the game.  I need to get better at that: the continual re-address and problem-solving part of parenting.  It never ends, but somehow it slips off my radar on a semi-regular basis.

Furthermore, as a homeschooling mama of four, everything depends on me.  There is no outside structure.  It is all me.

This is good and bad.  Good, in that I prefer autonomy.  Bad, in the fact that I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, inspired-to-action kind of gal.  I can do routines, but the day always seems like it gets away from me.  And I think it is making life harder.

It feels like we are all floundering, particularly in the morning hours.  I have a skeleton outline for the day, but reeling in the boys for our various tasks and assignments can be arduous.  Set expectations make everything easier.  I know this. An established, daily structure makes everything easier too.  Instead of having to think about it or question "what's next?", we flow.  Like a stream. 

And with all that, I need to actively impose further order to my life, for all of us.

My plan is to start parsing out the day with a timer.  Seriously.  I am going to use it as practice to divide up our hours into manageable chunks, giving the boys an understanding of what to expect so it isn't pulling teeth to move to the next phase of the day, or for me, to wonder what we should be tackling next.  I will do this until it becomes normalized.

I need to identify hot spots, hone in on our routine, and make sure that I have plenty of down-time with the little guys to be able to give them my full attention.

And now . . . I post.  Speaking of the devil, I've got a little four year old wiggling all over me who obviously needs my attention. ♥