I'm getting a little obsessed with the current folk song for our little homeschool. It is piquant and haunting; I'm feeling the tug to memorize it and sing it to my children like a bard. I must love epic tragedies.
Two amazing things happened this morning while reading The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice to the boys out loud during Circle Time this morning.
First off, they begged for more. And more and more. It was a much larger bite of Shakespeare than usual - things were starting to heat up and their interest was engaged. Be still my beating heart. The world stopped spinning and everything sparkled and pulsated around us.
(Though Jamie and Diego didn't stop wrestling.) (Circle Time is often ugly, but so, so beautiful.)
Secondly, I was getting so involved in the reading that my heart tightened up and I almost cried. I felt so much pity for Desdemona and couldn't believe that Othello could be such a fool as to hold fast to such incredibly imbalanced conclusions. He went crazy and couldn't rein himself back in. Whatever happened to a loving check-in or even a sound cross-examination?
I felt creeping sadness as I read aloud. Horrified. But I am intrigued by the simultaneous awareness of the beginnings of a fuller comprehension of Shakespeare's magnificence. It is thrilling. I've always been told that his plays are incredible, but when I was introduced to them cold-turkey in high school, I was more confused than interested. But now . . . I am seeing the slow dawning of understanding. This guy. He is amazing.
I've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream multiple times, listened to Coriolanuson audio, read aloud The Taming of the Shrew and now Othello. I can't wait to canvas the entire collection. Bit by bit, play by play.
Seriously. It is the end of October. Unbelievable.
This fall has been a bit of a whirlwind. We traveled to the Twin Cities twice in less than a month. (Once to see grandparents and great-grandparents.) (Then for a dear friend's baby shower and visiting my first mama friend and her family.)
Meanwhile, I worked my way through another preservation season. Tomatillo salsa, sauerkraut, applesauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, ketchup, pickles green tomatoes, dried vegetables, etc. I am a machine. I know what to do, how to do it, and the strategies for accomplishing such a massive undertaking are in place and well-girded.
Major improvements this year included:
Prepping multiple meals the week leading up to my 8-10 hour kitchen days.
Sprinkling in small jobs throughout the week.
Having a game plan in dealing with ALL tomatoes.
Harnessing children to pick, shuck, clean, haul compost, etc.
We also started our FIFTH YEAR of homeschooling at the beginning of October. I can hardly believe that number. There is so much wonder and beauty involved with all the hard work. I am so pleased. This is the first year that I am able to so clearly see our progress. It is a structure that has taken many years to create - built bit by bit, year by year, "shoring up the base" as my Grandpa O. likes to say.
Our daily outline involves:
Diego is in Year 5, Truen, Year 3, and Jamie, Year 0. The bulk of the responsibility falls on Diego and Truen, but Jamie is right there in the thick of it, insisting on having his own Math Lessons and Copywork. And his understanding and abilities are far beyond what Diego and Truen were doing at this age. Osmosis, I swear it. It is proof of Charlotte Mason's maxim "Education is a Life". Yes. When it is the very air you breathe, you cannot help but absorb it.
Together we are reading:
The Story of the World: Book 4
Halliburton's Book of Marvels
Madam How & Lady Why
The Winter of Red Snow
Wild Animals I Have Known
The Story of Inventions
Biography on Isaac Newton
Of Courage Undaunted
Bullfinch's Age of Fable
We are enjoying these books so much. I read aloud during meal times and snack time in addition to Circle Time. They enjoy it, but I revel in it. LOVE.
Overall, I have a grip on our days and feel very confident and ready for the behemoth task of home education. It is so massive, but I am right where I need to be.
But man: getting up early. I have found myself unable to do it this autumn. It is hit and miss . . . I would say I'm at about a quarter of the time, maybe a third. It is abysmal. I am not pleased. But for whatever reason, I find myself soooo tired in the morning, sleeping in until 7:00 - 8:00 AM with all the bros. Sleeping in feels amazing, but it is grating at me. I feel a burning need for some contemplative solitude again.
In years past, I have chopped almost everything by hand - but this year I feel like I've Discovered My Food Processor. (The one I've had for a decade.) (Yeah.) I've used it for big chopping jobs in the past, mostly for salsa, but this year I've been using the slicing attachment with no reserve.
(It is almost like I felt like I was betraying the art of hand-chopping?) (Very strange aversion.) I honestly think it might be because I didn't like cleaning the food processor when I was done.
But this year? I am LOVING it. The cabbage is shredded into such pretty cuts. The dehydrator is loaded in no-time flat. The fellas line up to help shove zucchini into the chute and are actually, truly helpful in the process. Apples are going to be a breeze. It is totally saving my life right now. Everything is easier.
Paste | Watermelon Rind Pickles | Ketchup
Another difference from years' past: I have a honed game plan. I am not writhing in the attempt to wrap my mind around the tomato table. I have a well-laid plan and know how to accomplish it.
First off, our family eats a lot of salsa and ketchup. Check.
Secondly, everyone loves tomato soup in the winter. (The puree.) Check.
Thirdly, tomato paste deepens the flavor of so many dishes. Check.
I love tomatillo salsa. I love having scads of dried vegetables at my fingertips all winter long. I L-O-V-E sauerkraut and we eat it at almost every meal. Check. Check. Check.
I am so pleased.
But of course, this involves a serious time commitment. I spent three 12-hour days in the kitchen over Labor Day weekend; Blaine took Tuesday off too, which was an 8-hour day.
On Monday morning I woke up so sore - my forearms were fatigued, legs and feet sore, just generally exhausted. In serious need of recovery after the last two days in the kitchen. (With two more to go.)
I took a time-out for an epsom salt bath: forty minutes with Boards of Canada. (One of Blaine's current faves.) It felt so good to stare and let the music unlock my thoughts. And I couldn't believe it, but the epsom salts did the job. My body felt rejuvenated and I felt ready to tackle the day.
Note to self: keep epsom salts in the house from now on.
The fellas with our two biggest watermelon this year --
Tom Watson: 26 lbs | Orange Glow: 22 lbs
19.5 years this November | 16 years last month | Love him
Blaine. Old Leroy. He ran the household and kept kids under wraps all four days. He gathered ingredients, picked tomatoes, played badminton, administered baths, worked in the garden, and prepped for my ill-timed Friends of the Library Sanding Party. (Tuesday night!) (New children's shelving for the library.) What a man.
And finally, I do not want to remiss the fact that my youngest is now three years old. Such a huge change. My time in the kitchen is so much more focused and lengthy. I am noticing the difference in a big way. (But just think of all the sweet baby breaks, nursing, nuzzling, in the past.) (Sigh.)
Of all the things. Cat care has been all but ignored in the last 10 years in our household, but there have been several recent bumps in the road that have required urgent and directed care for our aging felines.
Our poor kitty Tootsie (14) almost died from worms 18 months ago. Her coat was ragged, eyes, dull, she was skeletal-thin, and she did nothing but sleep on a heap on a basement rug. We just thought she was "getting old", but a friend noticed her and keyed us in: parasites. We realized how badly she was infested when she puked up a worm just weeks later.
We had already started the conventional route, feeling like we needed to take action ASAP and not knowing what else to do. (It had been YEARS since we'd paid any attention to the health of our cats.) It helped a little, but as we were warned, getting rid of intestinal worms is very hard. The same friend pointed us in the direction of diatomaceous earth; and after we started putting a small amount of DE on wet cat food each day, slowly but surely, she regained her health and went back to her normal, glossy self. MOUTH SORES and OVERALL TOXICITY. Homemade Cat Food.
Our gentle old dame Bay (15) had gotten to the point of stinking so terribly that no one wanted to be around her. Her eyes were dull, her coat was raggedy and dull, and she hid and slept most of the day. She had sores around her mouth that would not heal, no matter how they were tended. They hurt her so badly she stopped cleaning herself and her coat turned lumpy and matted.
I knew without a doubt that it was the food that was causing it. Dried kibble? Complete garbage. Wet cat food is no different, it is just a moist version of the dried stuff. I have made cat food in the past and had been feeling guilty about it for years, but felt swamped with young children and managing a household. The cats seemed "okay". But the time had come. There was no doubt it was the food causing the problem.
And after I started making it...? Her sores starting healing within a few days. She was completely recovered, looking and smelling better in a matter of days and weeks. Her stench wasn't a not-cleaning-herself smell. It was a toxic smell. There is no other way to describe it. And now..? She smells like a normal cat. Of course.
CORNEAL ABRASION. Eyebright and Apricot Kernel Oil.
Poor Bay. Just last week she was scratched full across the eye by an outside cat, with a tear in her cornea that went across three-fourths of her eyeball. It looked terribly painful.
I tried to get at it every day, keeping it clean with a mild saltwater solution and the application of eyebright drops, but it wasn't healing as quickly as we would have wanted. I finally found the time to apply a just a few drops of apricot kernel oil and within a day it looked so much better. Of course I was kicking myself. Why didn't I do it sooner?? (Mother of four!) (Weeding season!) (Three gardens!) The suggestion was to use almond oil or cod liver oil, but I opted for the apricot kernel and it worked just as well.
* * * * * *
Hopefully we can keep our cat trouble, chronic or crisis, to a minimum from this point forward, but I know that I will be able to deal with most potential issues at home.
Out of everything, the deep nutrition from their homemade food is going to be the most important to keep them healthy going forward. I will never, and I mean NEVER, go back to dry cat food. With a decade of cooking experience under my belt, homemade cat food is a cinch. I make a double-batch every couple of weeks, freeze it in pint canning jars, and voila - lunch.
As a surprising side-benefit, the cost is same or less than the bagged/wet cat food we were buying. It is better all around.
It has been 90 degrees F for the last two days, which prompted me to finallllly start the seasonal clothing shift and get the boys' summer clothes out. Until now, they've been making do with a pair of shorts and a few t-shirts.
First I stowed all the clean snowsuits that were waiting for me. Then I pulled out the 5T for Jamie and the size 7 for Truen. Easy.
Then I spotted the 18-24 months on the towering clothing storage shelf and thought, "That's it. Taking up space." Enough. But when I pulled it out and started sorting? A river of tears. I couldn't help it. It had to come out.
Both Diego and Truen were very tender and concerned with me when the found me crying. Their sweetness. I choked out my explanation as I spotted the little maroon 12-18 month sweatpants that Truen wore when he was 2 because it was the only thing that fit his tiny little frame.
Ah. How can it be?
I haven't gone through baby clothes yet, nor the toddler clothes. But it just doesn't make sense to take up precious storage space. I've been telling myself that I will sort through them, keeping the precious outfits, but passing the rest to a friend in our homeschool co-op who has a 2yo and newborn baby boys. (Her older kids are girls.)
Honestly, giving them to someone I know has been a big comfort to me in the process of even thinking about it. I felt that comfort as I started the actual sorting. As I sifted, I found myself making two stacks: one for the friend, one for my SIL. The second stack contained the pieces that I couldn't bear to part with and/or hold oodles of nostalgia for a particular babe. Each stack was about the same size.
Then Eliah woke up and needed to snuggle. I still need to pull down the 3T for Yiya and sort through the miscellaneous Big Stuff for Diego. He's the ice plow: I have to "break on through to the other side" every year for him; then store it in nice, neat boxes marked "9" or "10" for future reference. I even have it bagged within the boxes marked "5T Summer" or "8 Winter" for my convenience.
I'm so sthmart. (So why does it take me to the middle of June??) (Good question.)
We are lucky - we have many, many hand-me-downs from cousins. So most of Diego's clothes are just a matter of sorting and identifying what fits. The rest are thrifted. I've found that pants generally last two boys before the knees are totally blasted (sometimes one boy), so I still need to fill in here and there.
But yes: another shift away from the baby years. It hurts. I've thought it will be easier to let go of clothes as they get bigger, but we shall see.