Thursday, August 30, 2012

You can teach an old dog new tricks (me)

Instilling a sense of duty has not come naturally to me as a parent.  I'm all about inspiration and affection, learning to love the world around us, taking time to appreciate "the little things".  But duty?  Not so much.  Duty is "boring".

However, in recent years I have come to realize that duty is a very important part of life.  In it lies the simple building blocks of daily life: respect, patience, perseverance, serving others, care of possessions, maintenance of living spaces, etc.  Without these habits built into life, chaos reigns.  Chaos is worse than boring - it is dreadful.

A habit is "an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary".  Of course we clear our spot when we are done!  X-Y-Z goes back on the shelf after I'm done with it.  And that life-simplifying mantra, "a place for everything and everything in its place". 

Without a doubt, order and cleanliness comes easier to some than others.  Children amplify the need for these life skills, or lack there of, beyond reckoning.  I fall into the second category.  Lack there of.  Doh.

I remember reading encouragement to involve young ones in chores right from the start.  It will often take longer, but it is worth the effort of patience and (sometimes) added work to train them to help.  While I am doing that with Jamie, I never really did with Diego until he was a bit older, perhaps around 3-ish.  Probably because most of the said-chores were not on my radar screen.  The messes seem bigger and more ominous now, but also . . . prior to children, my jobs were to wash the dishes and clean the cat litters.  Squeeze did everything else. 

It has been a slow transition over the years, but I now hold the reigns of household management.  Of course, this also involves cleaning up after three little rascals, but I am floored by the amount of labor that is involved in "just life".  The daily grind.  The endless minutiae of picking up, organizing, cleaning, re-organizing, picking up, cleaning it again, and so on. 

Without daily maintenance, I am toast.  The tsunami-force of the mess monster swallows one whole - mind, spirit and all.  It is like a black-hole of despair.

My recent understanding of all this has initiated a major overhaul this past year.  The boys are becoming more and more responsible in household maintenance.  We all live here, and while I am your mama, I ain't your maid.

It has been a work in progress for several years.  I've spent a goodly amount of time hammering out my own failings . . . developing standards and creating structure in my own daily/weekly routines . . . and while I am not perfect, things have improved drastically.

Through all these inner-workings and sight of tangible results, I've realized that instilling a set of expectations in the daily routine is key.  It used to be the darndest thing to have my boys get dressed every day.  And brushing teeth after breakfast?  Fergettabou'dit.  They hit the ground running for the play table as soon as their breakfast dishes were cleared.

But then it hit me: make it an expectation.  Schedule it in to the routine.  Normalize it into daily reality.  One small example of this is my recent regimentation of "morning chores", which is nothing more than clearing the table, wiping their spot, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed.  But now . . . if they forget, all I need to do is ask sweetly, "What do you need to do next?" and they know exactly what I am talking about.  There is no harassing and the work gets done, in large part because they expect it.

It is embarrassing to know that I am just figuring this out with a seven, four, and one-and-a-half year old, but things change over the years.  Demands and challenges are different, as are the levels of activity and distractedness.  And shoot, I'm an ENFP.  We don't do well with the "trivial drudgery of everyday life".  Heh.

What is best though, is that I've come to realize that I can make ANYTHING into habit.  Whatever portion of the daily grind I need them to take responsibility for . . . I can instill it as habit into their daily routine.  One at a time, slow and steady wins the race, but I can. DO. it.

And that feels very good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The past is a foreign country

Retronaut: I am beyond intrigued.

People are people are people are people.  No matter when or where. 

I love stuff like this because it helps me get out of the entrapment of feeling like I am (or we are) "the first".  We are pioneering our own lives, yes, from birth to death - gaining the experiences and maturity that comes through living - but it has all been done before, a million times over.

Look into the eyes of some of these people.  I've seen them before.  I've seen them!  They are the faces of all of us.  Ever-changing, always the same.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preservation blitz

It is the wee hours of the night/morning and I've been in the kitchen for most of the day . . . decanting sauerkraut, jamming and canning 12 cups of concord grapes, canning 9 quarts of tomato sauce.  I didn't get started until mid-afternoon, but crikes . . . I'm bushed. 

Tomorrow I will need to re-fill the Pickl-It jars with a fresh batch of thinly-sliced cabbage n' caraway seeds for 'kraut and quarter plum tomatoes for the dehydrater. 

I really should blanch and freeze kale and collards as well.  They "keep" so much longer out in the garden, but better to get a jump on it vs. waiting until I am totally burnt-out and the plants are half-dead.  I doubt I'll have it in me, though.  Maybe sometime this week.

'Tis the season.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Harvesting & homeschooling

I feel a burning lack of contemplative thought in my life right now.  I don't have time to read, I don't have time to sit and stare, I don't have time for blogging.  It burns.  I sat down to write a contemplative post today, but realized that I don't have the time or ability to hammer my thoughts into a cohesive thesis.  So I shan't.  I just can't.

Our tomato table is full to the brim, waiting for me to slice plum tomatoes for drying.  I hope to have enough big-juicies to make a batch of tomato sauce soon.  Salsa, too.  I de-stemmed 10 lbs of grapes yesterday, concord grapes from our neighbor Walentyne.  They are such a gorgeous dusky purple-blue, my heart leaps whenever I look at them.  The next step is to separate the skins from the pulp.  I am making grape jam, so I will then cook the pulp, strain the seeds, then add the chopped skins back to the greenish-goo, add a sweetener and vioa-la!, jam.

I looked around the house yesterday and remembered, "Oh yes, this is September".  Of course it isn't September yet, but the harvest has started.  Things are getting wild.  I want to keep my perspective this year, to remember that the house might look like a cyclone hit it, but the chaos is only temporary.  It is worth it.

I am also looking toward the reality that we are starting Year 1 . . . first grade . . . of homeschooling this year.  We will start in October.  I feel fairly relaxed about it as I did most of my planning this past spring (with two year of reading and research undergirding it).  We have cultivated our home and lifestyle as a rich learning environment, so even if we haven't officially done "school", our little fellas have been schooled in many life skills and sciences since the very start.  I am also realizing that I am of the "better late than early" variety. 

I will be following the methods and philosophy of the educator Charlotte Mason using Ambleside Online as my training wheels, though I will be using The Story of the World as my history "spine".  I will be very curious to see how everything plays out.  It will involve a lot of reading aloud, which I think we will all enjoy.  I'm not exactly sure how to re-organize our day to make everything work, but I have read enough about homeschooling to know that it might taking several readjustments before things gel.

Other goals include teaching Diego how to read (which I think he is totally ready for, it should be easy) and teaching both boys how to tell time, as they currently measure time by Mr. Bean episode-lengths.  I think I need a morning board, so I can go hard at it with the season, temperature, date, time, etc.  Any suggestions out there...?  For some reason, I can't muster the inner strength to actually make one (though it must be easy).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olson Extravaganza

Posting a little sooner than last year . . .
My parents & sister left yesterday after a two-week visit.
We spent a week at our place and a week in the Twin Cities.
Lots of time with my sibs, grandparents, great-grands,
and a menagerie of extended Olsons.
'Twas good.

 The usual with Unky Erik

 The extended Olsons --
We had many a night like this.

Laid out flat at the beach --
three days without a nap'll do this to yeh.

My youngest sibs --
Snacking on homemade hummus
after splashing around with the nephews in the lake.

 Watching the koi at Como Park

Examining the fountain coins with Unky Andrew

 Blasting Grandma with the bubble gun --
She's the one that bought it for them! :)

Unky Jayna outright laughing --
Jamie's face was smooshed beyond belief in that mask.

Uncle Andrew & Auntie Brenda --
Keepin' it real with the kiddos.

Playing Go Fish with Grandpa & Great-Grandma

My lovely grandparents
"Up at the cabin"

The boys with their great-grands
and the friendly neighborhood kitty.

The last-minute goodbye photo