April 29, 2013

on rainy Monday mornings

It's a rainy Monday morning, and somehow there are candles lit, soft music a background to children playing and studying and working, laundry whirring in the machine, and peace reigns.  Remarkable.

I am not a morning person.  NOT.  So (this will sound like backward logic, but stick with me) I have to get up early enough to have some time to myself before I start my jobs (mothering, homeschooling) just like I did before children, when I left home to work.

So I get up at 5:30 (well, 5:42 by the time I'm done hitting the snooze button) to give me time to shower (which is to say, "wake up"), read my Bible (or something "inspirational", which yes, is sometimes email or facebook), make and eat breakfast with my Farmer, and have a few minutes to [eat our chocolate allotment and] chat a little before the troops descend.  At which time I go get Lil' Snip, still miraculously confined to his crib.

The troops, sometimes also referred to as children, wake up between 6:30 and 7, but our mantra is "morning time is quiet time" (to keep Mommy sane, basically), so they may read quietly in their beds (Bibles, Bible storybooks, etc.) until 7, then they dress and make beds and put away pjs before they come down, by which time I am fully awake (most days) and have hopefully found a good attitude about life.  Lil' Snip, as yet unfamiliar with our morning mantra, chooses from an assortment of activities of his choosing:  singing, banging on walls, thumping feet on crib, telling stories to his bear, exclaiming over something he can see from his window, or wailing for no discernible reason.  He also showed me yesterday how he lies on his back and kicks his feet in the air.  Never at a lack for entertainment, that one.

Not the system for every family, I know, but it works well for us, keeps Mommy out of professional therapy, and helps the children's mornings to go more peacefully, too.

It hasn't always worked so smoothly.

In the pre-reading era, a lot of intervention was needed.  Certain sisters hit and/or taunted certain other sisters.  Certain sisters tattled.  Certain sisters wailed with remarkable volume and intensity.  Loud thumps startled my Farmer and me from our coffee.  I despaired of ever, ever, EVER enjoying mornings.

But, little by little, we have somehow, by God's most generous grace, been insistent on our standards for mornings, and now it is hard (and yes, almost humorous) to remember those infuriatingly tumultuous mornings of so long ago (oh, say, last year).

Of course, now that I wrote this, tomorrow morning may be a crazy-maker ..... but I'll be able to read this and remember that peace is likely to reign again, someday ....

April 24, 2013

morning in the sun

This morning I tackled my flowerbeds.

They've been there, waiting for me, for weeks, and it was only last night's firm decision to venture out that stirred me from the stupor of an overcast sleepy morning.

Lil' Snip kept me company, wandering around in his inadequate Crocs through still-dewy grass while I pulled henbit and chickweed from the scanty irises and emerging hosta.  I uncovered a spiderwort that I'd forgotten about.  Divided and transplanted a primrose in full flower.  Made a pile of sticks for our bonfire pile.

My winter-stiff gardening gloves grew slick and supple from the moist soil and lush weeds, and before I knew it, all that was left in the flowerbed was flowers, and it was time for Lil' Snip's morning crib-time.

I lounged with my laptop while he played in his crib, Sugar and Spice playing Legos in the next room.

My Farmer and Nice came home from the dentist and he & I drank coffee and sampled the truffles he'd found at the dent-n-bent store, while Nice busied herself opening all the packages of toothbrushes and toothpaste.

When he could delay it no longer, my Farmer headed in to work, and Lil' Snip and I headed back out to the next flowerbed, beckoning the Lego Ladies (a.k.a. Sugar and Spice) to come join us.  Nice finished watering the plants in the sunporch and came out to join her sisters in fort-building.

Lil' Snip found a [child-sized] hoe and told me he would "shovel" with me.  I found a spot near me where he could do no harm, and he "shoveled" away while I attacked the rosebed.  Wild strawberries flourished here with henbit and creeping charlie and virginia creepers - apparently all the leaf litter makes that bed a vine paradise.  I pulled and pulled, uprooting all manner of trespassers with abandon, starting from the edges and ruthlessly working my way back.  Lil' Snip called encouragement from time to time:  "We're doing good, Mommy!  Good!"

I filled a wheelbarrow with my weeds.

Finally you could see clearly the daffodils I'd put in last year, the tolerant ferns that refused to die despite my neglect, even some columbine that had braved the jungle.  The chrysanthemum had mysteriously disappeared (not the first one in my care to do so), and some feverfew that had been there apparently accompanied the henbit to the rubbish heap in the wheelbarrow.  Humph, well, it shouldn't look so much like a weed!

Next I approached my eight-year-old Don Juan rose, pruners in gloved hand.  No time to read up on rose-pruning.  I knew myself:  it was now or never.  I cut off obviously dead bits, snipped off crossed or inward-growing branches, and topped the ones that towered above my head.  It was an experiment in horticulture that I could only hope worked out.

About then Sugar called over to me:  "It's time to go in!!"  Where had the time gone?  Lunchtime already?!

Lil' Snip and I dumped the weeds behind the shop while his sisters went inside to make lunch.  He showed me where our Polish crested chicken has hidden a nest; I had to make myself as small as he is to see her!

We went in, glowing, to put away our tools and wash up.  Nothing like a little sunshine and dirt to make you feel pleasantly virtuous.

April 19, 2013

beauty remains

I'd been saying for months that I needed a break, that I just needed life to stop a little and let me off.  After spending most of March either caring for sick children or being sick myself, it was more than time for some kind of respite.

Sugar, Spice, and I counted up our schooling days for the year and discovered that we only needed fifteen more, and had three months in which to fulfill them:  can you say "spring break?!?"

I could!

The girls wrote up proposals as to how they planned to use their hypothetical holiday.  The results were . . . entertaining.

During the two-week spring break, I propose that we could keep doing typing, nothing else.  We would play outside, therefore doing nature study, seeing that flowers are blooming, and we would be furthermore occupied with playing with the cats.  The aforesaid playing with cats will also be useful towards our education; we will learn how they - cats - act, also about how to care efficiently for animals 
Another thing is this:  the spring break will be healthy for our bodies and our hearts because we will be exercising our hearts and muscles by riding bike and jumping on the trampoline. 
I suggest that you continue with the plans for a two-week spring break, seeing that it is approved on all sides.  I think that is is a most excellent plan, and I sincerely hope to see it put in use this spring.


Here is a list of things I might do during Spring vacation.  Your the best teacher I've ever had, since preschool. 
1) play with the cats
2) weed the daffodils
3) rake the leaves out of the flower beds
4) type
5) dig up the purple crocuses to transplant (with your permission)
6) sew (maybe)
7) write things
9) look for birds nests
10) pick flowers
11) bead
12) take books outside to read
13) take naps outside (only on warm days)
14) invite friends over
15) make candles 
So, I think two weeks of spring vacation is a very good idea!!

I submitted their proposals to the principal (my Farmer), who approved heartily, and we took a break:  two whole beautiful weeks of no [intentional] school, and lots of free play.  My mind relaxed, my body took itself outside, and my eyes were opened, again, to the beauty I'd forgotten existed.  It brought the deeper breaths, rejuvenating the jaded parts.

-----   : : : < O > : : :   -----

If you're a news junkie (which most people are without realizing it, just like sugar addiction), you've lately been feeding on a lot of tragedy and fear.  In light of that, it could feel almost indecent to offer beauty to you here.  However, whether our media chooses to feature them for us or not, hard things are happening to undeserving people around the world every day ... and yet the beauty also exists, and is undimmed.

I can focus on the fear .... or on the beauty.

April 8, 2013

what did you do all day??

When my Farmer comes home in the evening, we sit down to supper, thank God for his blessings, take a deep breath, and, after a bite or two, ask each other about our days.

"How was your day" I might ask.  And he'll tell me about spading and invoices and fertilizer and equipment design and interpersonal management.

And then he'll ask me, "and what did you do today?"

And I'll think to myself, now there's a good question.  What did I do today??  "Laundry," I might answer - usually a safe guess - or, "cooked supper" which is also nearly always true.  But the day is many hours long, is it not?  I'm pretty sure I didn't spend all of them doing laundry or cooking supper.  What, then, did I do??

So one day last week, after my Farmer waved goodbye from the Box (our Scion xB) as he turned out the driveway, I grabbed a nice long receipt from Kmart, and turned it over to keep tally on the back.  I was determined to find out just what I did do all day.

I got as far as 1:30pm.  Here's what my research found:

5:34 (I had to think back a bit from when I started writing around 7:30) - hit snooze on alarm
5:38 - hit snooze again
5:42 - hit snooze, roll over, turn alarm off and get up.  Shower, contacts, dress.
6:10 - check email & facebook while making coffee, read Bible
6:40 - make eggs for my Farmer & me; eat together and chat about our week

7:15 - 9:00 - a bit of a blur as the children come down for hugs & get their breakfast ready, put away dishes, feed cats, etc.  I get Lil' Snip up, change his diaper, spoon oatmeal into his mouth while he distracts himself with Legos, dress him, tell everyone the agenda for the day (we're on spring break, so no schoolwork - hurray!! - just housework and play plans).  Somewhere in there my Farmer kisses us all and goes to work, I start some laundry, oversee the girls' morning chores, take some clothes to the attic for yardsaling next month, and play Legos with Lil' Snip and Nice.

9 - 10 - put Lil' Snip in his crib for some morning quiet time, work on the budget, place an Amazon order, continue to oversee the girls' chores, and then bring Lil' Snip back down to play.

10 - 10:30 - comparison shop on Amazon for purses I will probably never buy.

10:30 - 11 - brief phone call from a new friend, business call to the dentist to make appointments and inquire about getting a crown (ugh), switch the laundry over to the dryer, make up some baking soda shampoo, and take the mail out to the mailbox.

11 - 1 - play Legos, start beans for supper, experiment with neodymium magnets and duct tape, look for my crab soup recipe, clean recipe box, fold laundry, try (and, largely, fail) to find out online whether it's better economy to buy new or refilled HP ink cartridges, read the grocery flyer and make up my list, during lunch when Victoria Falls comes up in conversation look up and admire video footage of the falls on youtube and possible origins on wikipedia, take photos of Sugar's birthday duds, load photos onto the computer and send them to my sister-in-law, read to Lil' Snip & put him down for his nap.

1 - 1:30 - read to Sugar, Spice, and Nice from Those Happy Golden Years, send them upstairs for quiet reading time, and work on my homework for the Bible study we're doing in our moms' group.

At which point I evidently abandoned my receipt (which was nearly full anyway).  Let's just assume it was more of the same:  lots of unremarkable little things that end up taking all day, and don't make for very interesting conversation.

But at least now I know.

[and, for the record, writing and editing this post took me about three hours - interspersed, of course, with receiving various mysterious blanket-and-ribbon-wrapped Lego creations, charting cross-stitch on graph paper & counselling a frustrated stitcher, putting down Lil' Snip and getting him up from his nap, receiving a ten-I-mean-40-minute phone call from a friend, getting everyone outside and then getting distracted and accidentally weeding three flowerbeds, coming inside for a pruners and seeing that it's time to make lunch ....]

April 5, 2013

a little more palatable

After baring my soul about the groundhog, I hasten to serve up something a little tastier for you.

Last month, my Farmer's precious aunt, having overheard my weariness, offered to watch the children for a few hours while I ran errands.  She showed up with a meal for us, and included in it were these delicious, nutritious, energy-packed snacks.  She called them "energy balls", and credited our pastor's wife with the recipe, which she shared with me, and I'll share with you.  They are a bit of a bear to mix up, requiring, perhaps, the consumption of a ball from the previous batch to energize your arm.

My mother, ever a great economizer, added to this excellent recipe the idea of simply pressing the mixture into a pan to cut into bars.  Less elegant, perhaps, but so much easier that the elegance is barely missed, especially in light of the fact that while my children love to eat them, they do not so much love to shape them into balls.

Without further ado, I give you:

Energy Bars (or Balls)
1 cup regular oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaxmeal
1 T chia seeds (sesame seeds are also good)
1/2 cup nut butter (I've been using 3/4 cup natural peanut butter)
1/3 to 1/2 cup honey (maple syrup would also be good)
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together using either (or alternating) a smashing or cutting motion.  Chill 45 minutes and shape into balls, or skip the chilling and press mixture into an 8x8" pan.  Store in the refrigerator and save the last one to eat before mixing up the next batch!  Delicious!

groundhog, with green beans

Here it is, the recipe you've all been waiting for:  how to serve groundhog.  And now that I'm an expert (this is my second time and all), I am armed with just the information you'll need.

But let's back up a little.

It has been my Farmer's dream, ever since our pre-marriage days, to roast a groundhog.  He and a friend cherished hopes of doing one on a spit to celebrate the last day of bachelorhood before his wedding.  So it's not as if I'd never heard him talk about eating groundhog.

I just never imagined that he was serious.

But then he started farming - garden vegetables, a groundhog's favorite buffet - and Mr. Groundhog became Public Enemy No. 1 (just behind Bambi, if you must know).  Wherever there are organic vegetables, there are appreciative consumers, and the four-legged ones are at least as eager to sample the wares as the two-legged ones.  In the absence of impediments, they usually overindulge:  having neither conscience nor sense of moderation, they'll happily nibble down an entire young planting of strawberries or broccoli or unripe melons.

Enter the Hav-A-Heart trap.  Groundhogs, despite having elevated tastes in vegetables, are none too gifted in strategy, and the sight of a lone tomato in an empty wire cage arouses no suspicions.  (For that matter, an empty cage alone is sometimes lure enough.)  The problem is that, having trapped them with such a big heart, are you then going to release them for someone else to deal with?

It didn't take my Farmer long to put two and two together.  Dream of roast groundhog + groundhog nuisance to livelihood = fulfilment of the ultimate in masculine accomplishments.

And so, one day last summer, he brought me home a groundhog.*

I was not as charmed as perhaps he had hoped.  I absented myself from the butchering.  Likewise from the slow roasting and the removal of the meat from the bones.  But, when my gallant Farmer, bringer-home-of-the-bacon and provider-of-the-meat, asked me to please make supper with it .....

.... I gulped and said yes.

I don't remember which of us came up with the idea of BBQ.  I tried to pretend it was beef, and when it was all arranged on buns, cheese melting prettily on top, it really looked the part.  Except that I knew.

The children loved it!  (they had begged for bits to taste during the "removal of meat from the bones" stage)  My Farmer was pleased.  I silently awarded myself "Wife of the Year", ate my sandwich somehow, and survived.

And now I have just done it all over again, tonight.  The scary thing is .... this time I almost enjoyed it.  Shhh, don't tell anyone.  I don't think I want to be known for eating groundhog.

Then again, I might not have a choice.  As we polished off our "garden beef" BBQ tonight, my Farmer told me, with a twinkle in his eye, that he'd checked the trap again today, but it was empty.

There can only be so many groundhogs out there, right???

So, on the off chance that you are ever presented with groundhog meat, here is what I recommend you do with it, after stiffening your spine and bracing yourself to jump the necessary mental hurdles:

Sauce for Groundhog  (one hog yields about 3 cups meat)
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup apricot jam
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of cayenne
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T Worchestershire
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
1 T brown sugar (I may omit this next time; the sauce was sweeter than I like)
1 T vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.  Chop groundhog meat finely, and stir into the sauce.  Simmer a half hour or longer, covered or uncovered, depending on how much liquid you want in your sandwich.  Toast the insides of the buns, spoon the meat onto the bottom halves, top with muenster cheese and broil.  Add the bun tops and serve hot, with green beans on the side.

* (For non-locals, the correct grammatical construction here is:  "he brought home a groundhog for me."  Consider this your unsolicited introduction to Pennsylvania Dutch-influenced grammar.)

linking up with Ann Kroeker at:

also sharing the story on Tell Me A True Story

April 1, 2013


I've had a sore throat for over a week.  I'd had enough by day three, when I lost my voice.  Waking myself up at night coughing did nothing to improve my attitude.  Despite leading a talk on home remedies at our moms' group earlier this winter, I could not kick this cold.

It's Monday, after a full Easter.  My throat still hurts, and I'm drowning in hormones and breaking the yoke in my egg brought the tears this morning and boy, do I want to wallow.

But it's sunny outside, a glorious 50 degrees, and the Brandenburg concertos chirp exhortingly from the livingroom.  My son is bringing me Lego cars, and towers he's built for me.

It's time to re-focus.

Count them with me?

1- daffodils
2- bluebells!!
3 - sunshine & WARMTH
4 - in his own words:  "My stuffy nose is getting better, Mommy!"
5 - a flat tire, noticed close to home instead of halfway there
6 - that a cancelled meeting means a nap for me
7 - the first day of our spring break!!
8 - a filmy scarf from Italy (handed-down)
9 - my husband, calling from work
10 - hot tea for my throat
11 - a prayer for me
12 - one for a friend
13 - courage to ask about crowns
14 - a line-up of Lego creations, all made for me!
15 - his precision in naming colors, already
16 - that color exists!
18 - anticipating a "drop-in"  :)
19 - curly garlic
20 - tiny bare toes
21 - a boy who asks for snuggles
22 - sisters
23 - laughter
24 - Southern Comfort for a cold (?)
25 - colored glass
26 - shoes for all their feet
27 - wool yarn
28 - crayon art
29 - embroidered tea towels
30 - wooden cutting board
31 - brilliant smile of a cancer-fighting friend
32 - indigo, aquamarine, teal, cobalt, french navy - all the blues
33 - buttercup, sunshine, tangerine, Kubota - all the yellowy oranges
34 - Isaiah, running pell-mell toward the trashcan:  
"I've a fuzzy!! Catch 'im, catch 'im!!"

Well, my throat still hurts, but my heart is happier for the hunting.  God always does show up.

"You will seek me and find me 
when you seek me with all your heart."  
Jeremiah 29:13

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