Summer, Day 1, 2016

It’s really been about a week of this, but today somehow seemed to hit home for me. The air, the sunshine, getting to leave the door open (with the screen closed, of course, to keep the invading wasps outside where they belong).

Sometimes I struggle with being very global-minded, which means I see the entire picture. Not a detail, not one part, but every single part. It means I am very, very good at multi-tasking and dealing with multiple children, and I can tell you the entirety of a movie or book that I have only seen/read once. It also means that I often get overwhelmed. The house is messy? I see the whole mess: dishes, laundry, toys, socks on the floor, food and crumbs on the dining room floor, shoes all a-scramble by the door, coats and gloves-without-matches creeping their way through my living room, kids clothes that are out of season and suddenly too small needing to be changed over and, of course, my boys can rarely keep the clean and the dirty separate… I mean, who puts clothes in drawers and hampers? So sometimes I just melt down because I see ALL OF IT and it’s all equally important, and I just don’t know what to do.

Then I found my old copies of the Little House books on my shelf, lovingly worn books my mom read to me since I was small that she recently passed on to me, and I pulled down Little House in the Big Woods and started to read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. I love all of the books; really, really love them, but there is something about Big Woods that just zones me. Something about Ma and Pa going about daily life, methodical and intentional and simple and happy, refocuses me and helps me look at my own house and see what to do. Suddenly everything wasn’t a mess around me, and by reading a little bit each day I receive a daily dose of Focus and I do the dishes, I make the meals, I sweep the floors, the kids do chores and school… and guys, I am getting extra done. My counters got cleaned off of the miscellaneous stacks that pile up (a result of my youngest now knowing how to walk and growing tall enough to catch things off the table and pull them off onto himself). I de-caned, fertilized, and mulched our patch of baby raspberries. I cleaned out the rhubarb patch. I planned my garden. I finished my book… honestly, I don’t know what happened. Where did this energy come from? Where did my time come from? But I swear that every time I read Big Woods it re-centers me and this miracle happens again and again. I think, in part, it helps me focus on today. I mean, God tells us we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow. He tells us to just think about today, and it’s so easy for anyone but for a global-brained person it is especially easy to succumb to worry and becoming overwhelmed. And I realized that I don’t have to get it all done today, I just have to get a piece done. Who cares what that piece is; whatever I do, it’s one more thing than I had gotten done before. Hoorah!!!!

We put up the hummingbird feeder today. My kids did their chores, ate a good breakfast, my 1st grader did his school and my preschooler watched his science video, and then out they went into the warm sunshine to play and I got the entire Mount Everest pile of laundry on my futon folded, made a batch of hummingbird syrup, and while that cooled I and the kids marched down to Sackett Man’s shed and found the rain gauge, a piece of garden decor, and the humming bird feeder. We put up the rain gauge, stuck the garden decor in the ground attractively, and the kids crowded around in fascination as mother hung almost upside down on the shepherd’s crook that the feeder hangs decorously from.

You may laugh, but that thing is a beast to force into the ground. I leaped on it, hung from it, planted my feet and grabbed it and heaved, red-faced and sweating, till FINALLY that pointed end sank into the ground deeply enough to be stable.

Then they cheered, I grinned through the pain of pulled muscles, and then they crowded around and watched as I lifted the small sauce pan of syrup and poured it into the feeder, and screwed it shut. I hung it up, and we watched the glass and syrup glitter in the sunlight, and then we went inside for a cool drink and supper.

Now it’s bathtime, and the boys are laughing and playing upstairs while I bathe my daughter. And I feel so good and so happy.

Thank you, Ma Ingalls. Thank you, God.

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Nesting a Car

Nesting is a funny thing. We ready-to-pop pregnant mothers have so little energy, but a buzz of unexpected, out of the blue get-up-and-go can enable us to do some hard stuff. I have so little energy right now, and the little mister inside of me is currently grinding his head into some rather painful nerves, making it hard to walk and causing my sciatic to go bonkers. Naughty boy! So moving is difficult, to say the least. But yesterday I went down into our attached garage to clean the seat where our baby will go. Vacuum up the crumbs, clean off the spill of milk from my daughter, and then hook in the base for his infant car seat. I took a big rag, some safe cleaner, and the dustbuster to vacuum up the crud and crumbs.

About ten minutes later I realized I was upside down vacuuming under the seat, and that I’d removed two car mats already. And I couldn’t stop! I just kept removing mats and vacuuming and vacuuming and vacuuming, crawling and getting myself into crazy positions to try and get the crumbs and crud that liked to hide in out-of-the-way places and corners, and then I took my rag and cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed. Then I took the rubber mats and dumped them in the tub of our basement bathroom, grabbed a cleaning brush, and washed and scoured them till they looked like new. Finally, an hour-and-a-half later, I hooked in the infant car seat and shut the doors. (Don’t worry, I had turned off all the lights to save the battery.)

The car doesn’t look brand-spanking new, but it’s pretty good. It’s the best that a fully-pregnant woman could do, anyway!

You should have seen the look Sackett Man gave me when he came home from work. “Not to criticize, but was that the best thing for you to do right now?” he asked, concerned. “I mean, you can hardly walk…”

I hobbled around, my baby boy grinding his head, nerves pinching and hurting like fire and my sciatic twanging away as I tried to prepare supper. “Right now, I go when the energy’s good!”

He shook his head in exasperation, but his green eyes were soft and tender, and a little smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

And once the kids were in bed, he treated me to a leg and foot rub. 🙂

“I’ve Got It!”

Every good day must and always shall be tempered with a little excitement.

We are in the middle of an aggressive potty training routine for our second son. With a fourth child on the way and him reaching three and a half years of age, we decided his relaxed comfort with where he was diaper-wise needed to be shaken up. So Sackett Man and I planned. We drew complicated diagrams and battle plans. We rendezvoused  in the dark of the night and whispered together secretly. Supplies were gathered, the preparations carefully made.

On Sunday we took the kids shopping. We wooed them with pasta and meatballs and breadsticks  at their favorite restaurant, then we went to the store, and marched our oldest to the boy section to pick two packages of awesome underthings in just his size, and then… gasp!… our second boy was taken to the aisle where, wonder upon wonders, there were undies in HIS size! And… he got to pick his very own package! Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.21.12 PM

Monday morning dawned. The nighttime diaper was changed, and he was slipped into a pair of undies. He thought it was cool. His potty chair was put in the little back room off of the kitchen, within fast and easy access as he played (restricted as he was to the dining room/kitchen area, the only place in the house without carpet). A Potty Chart was taped on the wall. Whenever he tried, he got a smiley face drawn with a red crayon. When he was successful he got a sticker on his chart and a treat (consisting of one jelly pumpkin, one of his favorite treats). It got to the point that even our youngest 16 monther would throw her hands in the air and cheer “YAY!” whenever he announced a success. We only had one accident, early on, and not again after.

It was my turn: “YAY!”

Must to our son’s chagrin he learned, as the day wore on and the novelty of undie-wearing wore off, that this was a permanent deal. The only diaper allowed to him from now on was his nighttime one. We had a few tears; he wanted the comfort of routine back, but I was gentle and firm that this was the new routine. I wiped his eyes and kissed his forehead, and gave him another candy pumpkin.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.21.42 PMThe boys played with duplos all day, sitting together on the kitchen floor. In the afternoon I made popcorn and set up a movie on my computer for them.

All three happily sat at the table and watched Frozen, munching away on buttery, yummy popcorn.

Around 3:30 I started on supper. I pulled the thawed beef soup bones from the fridge; they still had a good amount of meat on them, so I browned them first in my dutch oven and then I added water and slowly began to cook them through, watching as a delicious broth began to form and rejoicing as the fantastic scent of rich meat filled the room. I was going to make a rustic beef stew for the night. Satisfied that all was well on the stove, I hurried off to pick some things up and put things away and organize and… well, you know, mother stuff.

“What did you do today?”

“I… well, there was… You know, stuff!”

Sometime after four I heard James announce he’d had another success. I, with my arms full of something (I know longer remember what) quickly checked the location of my three children. All three, oldest to youngest, were back at the table watching Frozen. Good. I had time to quickly dispose of whatever I have in my arms so that I could go take care of the potty chair (this is a very important thing to take care of with all possible speed when you have a curious 16 month old). I emptied my arms and hurried to the little back room barely a minute later.

Rose had beaten me to it, and was now industriously cleaning.

Enter the excitement.

A box of baby wipes was sitting, open, next to her, and she was crouched before the chair, scrubbing the inside of the bowl vigorously with a thoroughly-used/soaked wipe. The seat was covered with many splashes, liquid dripping and running down the sides. Rose herself was also soaked, and crouched in a puddly mess that spread out across the floor from the base of the potty chair. The soggy remains of two wipes were left in the bottom of the now-semi-dried bowl.

I stood for a second in amazed horror and mind-numbing shock. My first thought was: How am I going to clean this? My second thought was: How am I going to carry her through the house to the shower?

Rose noticed my presence and looked up at me. She paused in her scrubbing and the biggest, cheesiest grin split her little face, as if to say:

“Don’t worry about this, Mom. I’ve got it!”

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The Plus Side

Some days require deliberate searching. You know the days I mean… the ones where one thing after the next happens till all you want to do is hide under your blanket and hope that the next day is better. Usually on days like that I end up posting about it on facebook in my ladies’ group (the members of which consist of my mom, my sister, and my sister-in-laws). When I get all of my “Why me?!!!” exclamations out, I try to then end the post with the positives of the day, which I head up with ‘The Plus Side: …”.

I started this Plus Side business after a particularly fractious day. Week. Maybe even a month… I don’t remember. Anyway, I was sitting there in my doom and gloom, feeling like a terrible mother because I’d ended up yelling at the children quite a few times that day, and wishing my kids would stop their naughty behavior so that we could get back to being a happy, normal family.

I’m sure some of you mother’s out there have had days like that.

I was sitting there, moping, and I recalled a thing Sackett Man and I learned during a marriage counseling session. Way back when, when we were young and somewhat newly married, we found that the same trouble and problems kept popping up. Okay, they were wreaking havoc. Sackett Man and I are complete opposites… he’s a man of action, and I’m a word person. I would tell him how much I loved him, how wonderful he was, handsome, etc., etc., but I HATED doing dishes and vacuuming. So I would leave them, not till last minute, but I would push doing them out a little. He, on the other hand, would whip through the house vacuuming, mopping, folding laundry, doing dishes, taking out the garbage… but when it came to TELLING me, he would instead tell me everything I hadn’t done. Needless to say, it was turning ugly. We got counseling, which helped us see so many things and how to work at them… it was unbelievable… and honestly, now, YEARS later, I couldn’t imagine being married to anyone but him!

I digress. The point of that was, one of the things we learned was the 5-1 ratio. In that it takes five good things to make up for one bad. So, if at all possible, have at least five things to say throughout the day that are positive and uplifting and encouraging to the one negative thing.

So I took a deep breath, there in the middle of my brooding, paused in typing to my four confidants, and I closed my eyes. I looked back through the day, deliberately looking for the good things. I typed them out, and by the end of it I was feeling a million times better and I could see, much more clearly, what kind of a day I’d really had. Was it a good day? NO. But it wasn’t the precursor to my kids blowing up the house and running wild, either. It was just a normal bad day with a teething infant and two crabby boys.

I’ve been doing that ever since.

Which brings me to today.

This morning started with my eldest telling me “I’m going to throw up!”

Oh no! I thought, my eyes flying open in a panic as I threw myself out of bed. Not again!

See, just a month ago, the stomach flu had run through our house with much abandon and glee. Twice in two weeks.

For the next hour and a half there was tense anticipation as he waited in the bathroom for the inevitable.

In the meantime my second child and I were relegated to the downstairs bathroom as we got ready for the day.

And… the toilet plugged. I fought with it. I argued with it. I got it free.

It plugged again.

I argued more. I attacked it viciously and with great courage, plunging away as I warned it “You don’t want my husband to come home! He’s a plumber… you know what will happen if he has to deal with you!”

The toilet stuck the proverbial tongue out at me, and the bowl filled to the rim… and stopped. The threat was clear: One more move and I spill over!

Point taken. I backed away and shut the door.

Roman, now realizing that he was not sick but had mistaken his stomach ache for SERIOUS hunger pains, happily ate his breakfast and the day commenced. Which of course meant that Rosemary cried when I didn’t hold her, and then when she was content to play on the floor she spat up all over it and proceeded to play in it with every toy she could get her hands on. My boys tried to play with the cars, but ended up arguing over who got to put what car down the ramp. They switched to a puzzle, which soon had James throwing the pieces around and Roman having a temper tantrum. Time for a bathroom break: one boy forgot to aim, and the younger one, still in training, took off his own diaper and went on the floor.

(I’m taking a deep breath now.)

The Plus Side:

The boys set up a blanket between our two couches to create a ‘tent’. I made them a snack-lunch in their two lunch boxes, turned on a nature thunderstorm album on my computer, and for the next two hours they adventured and imagined till I could almost see the the world they were in myself. It was amazing and wonderful.

Rose sat in her swing and played peek-a-boo with me while I folded laundry. This week she’s into tossing her head back and forth as she giggles, which is a hilarious sight.

Rose took a thirty minute nap.

I got a basket of laundry folded, and another one in the washing machine.

The dishwasher is half-emptied. (I hope to get to the other half soon.)

I have a cold, which means I get to indulge in my favorite thing: Tea with lemon juice and elderberry syrup. The perfect tonic for a sore throat.

Sackett Man texted me that he loved me. 🙂

Outside, while in the negative digits, is beautiful and white with softly falling snow.

And I’m finally having lunch, which consists of two fried eggs (runny, of course), wilted greens in butter, a leftover homemade biscuit, and topped with the leftover cheese-sauce my husband had made over the weekend.

Seriously, it’s so good! He made breakfast on Saturday, of eggs and toast and this amazing cheesy sauce that is fantastic. He layers it all, tops it with the sauce, and sprinkles it all with dill.

Heaven!

That’s my Plus Side for a day that didn’t start great, but is getting better.

What’s yours?

Sackett Man's Saturday Breakfast

Sackett Man’s Saturday Breakfast

My Lunch, with Sackett Man's Cheese Sauce

My Lunch, with Sackett Man’s Cheese Sauce

Clean Laundry Soup

My boys got to go outside today for the first time this week, bundled up like the little boy in ‘A Christmas Story’. My youngest boy, James, was in within five minutes, his little fingers so cold that his nails hurt, so I peeled him out of his winter wear and wrapped him in a blanket, curled him up on my lap, and put his fingers under my arm to warm them up. Within a few minutes he was better. Then Roman came in.

Those winter adventures sure didn’t last long!

Popcorn and hot chocolate and “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” is the perfect antidote for cold fingers and toes.

I put up some Christmas decorations, and folded laundry… and folded laundry… and folded laundry… I’ll get it all done, eventually. And then my kids will wear something and it will start all over again.

My favorite parts of the day? I have three. The first: making and putting up colored paper chains with Roman and James. The second: being called downstairs by my Sackett Man to be shown the amazing cleanup he did down there today. Boxes and bins from the move are arranged and organized, the floor vacuumed and bleached, much of the laundry washed… He’s amazing. Third: providing a delicious supper for my tired, hardworking family, while Rosemary sat in her highchair and indulged in a saltine cracker.

Winter Squash Soup

Squash soup. I use any winter squash I have on hand, cream cheese, minced garlic, thyme, butter, and s/p to taste. Everything gets mashed with my potato masher. Then I add enough of the liquid I cooked the squash in to make it the consistency I like, and voila!

This is great with bread and butter.

Of course, I think ANYTHING is great with bread and butter… but that could just be because I love bread. And butter.