Yummy Monday: Freedom Through Basics

We all have to eat.  For many people it can be a challenge when first starting down the road of culinary delights to really settle on what are the things that they truly need to devote their time to learning.  As time goes on we learn short cuts and figure out which things are more trouble than they are worth.  We also learn how to “cheat” on a recipe and what substitutions are acceptable and which will only bring a disaster to our plates.  When I first started cooking I was all over the place.  I bought way too many cookbooks and developed a habit of making too many menus that were overly complicated and hard to keep up with.  In short, I ended up seeing cooking as a dreaded chore instead of the adventure it had first seemed to me.  After a while though I arrived at a wonderful place of compromise where I had standard dishes that were relatively simple and easy to fall back on and could be made with either pantry basics or were such that I could improvise with whatever we had on hand any given day.  Occasionally I still make those every so delicate pastries and spend a few hours whipping up a masterpiece but I now feel far more free to experiment and take it easy only doing the more time intensive meals when inspiration and motivation strikes.   Today I would like to share with you the top 5 things I believe every home cook should take the time to learn and in the end make cooking easier and more enjoyable.

Spice and Herb Blends


This is one of those things that I think many of us are afraid to try when we first start cooking.  Particularly if you were not raised in a home where the person cooking trusted their own judgment and not that of a nice tidy foil package in flavoring their foods.  This is also one of the single biggest, and easiest, things you can do to improve the flavor of your foods.  There are countless websites and cook books that will walk you through the process step by step and that is a wonderful place to start getting the hang of it.  After a while though you will start to discover that no blend will fit every family exactly right.  We all have such varying preferences when it comes to food, not to mention allergies.  This is where the fun part comes in, no, really!  After you start learning how different spices and herbs affect your favorite meals you can start adapting the recipes to suit your own personal preferences.  For instance many mixes will call for either flour or corn starch to help thicken the food (taco seasoning comes to mind) but I found that I much prefer to use arrow-root powder, also my husband has developed a much more sensitive stomach over the years and I have found that by reducing ingredients like cayenne pepper I can make some of his old favorites without it tearing his stomach up.  Once I arrive at a combination that we all like I quadruple the ingredients mix them up and put them in an airtight container.  When it is time to make my dish it makes it simple to just spoon out the required amount and move on.  Trust me once you start making your own spice and herb blends you will never go back to the store-bought ones.

Casseroles

Let’s face it, casseroles are hard to get a good picture of.  They are often ugly and spilling over the sides but wow are they easy and so tasty!  The “Oh no, what can I cook tonight?” champion in my book.  The casserole magical formula is take your leftovers (meat or veggies) or a cooked pasta and add a binding agent along with some seasoning.  Cream soups and stuffings work great for this but I have used a few eggs beaten together with some milk in a pinch before.  Bake at 350 degrees until it gets all bubbly and then let set on the counter until it cools down to a temperature less than that of a volcano.  Dig in, and don’t be afraid to add cheese, it can make just about anything taste good.

Soup

Soups are another one of those wonderful “Let’s see what we got to throw in” sort of wonderfulness that I love so much.   It, like the ever so forgiving casserole, is very forgiving and can be made with just about anything you happen to have on hand.  It also has a magical formula.  Take a base liquid preferably stock (chicken, beef, tomato, vegetable, water if you are desperate… you get the idea) and then just add what you have.  You might make some stinkers along the way but I promise you will eventually learn what works together and what does not.  One of my favorites that I made this way was my chicken stew.  I started with a chicken stock that I swirled in a can of tomato paste and added cubed potatoes with the skin still on, sliced carrots, left over chicken that I pulled into bite size pieces and sliced fresh mushrooms.  Then I seasoned it with dried minced onion, thyme, garlic powder, minced garlic, onion powder and sea salt.  One of our favorite meals, hands down.  

Salad

Is there anything more forgiving and easily adaptable than a salad?   Growing up salad was some iceberg lettuce with some torn pieces of american cheese mixed in pushed somewhere off on the side of your plate.  It makes me a little sad to think of all the years I missed out on the beauty that is a good salad.  Throw some greens in a bowl add protein and anything else that sounds good and dinner is served.  Does it get any easier?  One of our favorites is to get several types of lettuce and add chicken, bacon, tomatoes and cheese.  Simple and filling.

Bread

So I will admit that this one took about a year of trial and error to get just right.  The mood would strike and I would try my hand at it again, reworking an old recipe or trying a new one.  Now bread might not be easy and it certainly is not very forgiving when you get your measurements wrong but it is so worth it!  You have not tasted garlic bread until you have had your own homemade fresh from the oven loaf.  Top it will some marinated veggies or meat and you have yourself an amazing lunch.  Before you know it you will be making not only your own bread but also crackers, croutons, and rolls all the while wondering why you tolerated the store-bought version for so long.

*Photos purchased from depositphotos.

The Peaceful Housewife $20 gift certificate giveaway!

We here at Grateful Moms of Many are pleased to announce that the owner and founder of The Peaceful Housewife has generously offered a $20 gift certificate to one of our wonderful readers.  I first met Jenny back in the early days of my blogging journey when the idea of an environmental responsible home business that offered quality homemade household cleaners was at it’s very beginning for her.  The idea was to connect with others that had very real concerns about the impact of most cleaners found on store shelves today and offer to them, at responsible prices, a product that not only would offer them an alternative but was made with loving care by her own hands.  I was delighted as I watched her idea not only blossom and reach quick success but branch out into other products I had not even anticipated her offering.

She has a beautiful array of homemade soaps in some truly delicious scents, lip balms, window cleaner, scented laundry detergent in case you want to add a little pizzazz to your regular laundry routine, dish soap, candles and the list goes on!  I am so proud of the success Jenny has experienced and can hardly wait to watch her business, undoubtedly, grow even more in the coming years.  I look forward to being able to beam and tell others about how I “knew her when”.  So now is your chance to have a go at winning a little mini shopping trip.  I am sure once you try her products you will be as hooked as her other customers have been.  To enter the giveaway is simple just leave a comment below.  For extra entries you can like The Peaceful Housewife’s facebook page, like our facebook page, join The Peaceful Housewife’s mailing list or subscribe to our blog by e-mail.  Be sure to leave a separate comment below for each extra entry you do and make sure you leave a valid e-mail address so that we can contact you if you win.  The giveaway will be open until midnight of this Friday May 4th 2012 and a randomly selected winner will be announced on Saturday May 5th 2012.  Good luck to you all!

Are Big Families Really the “New Green”?

Welcome to April edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Celebrating Our Earth – Green Living”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!
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So…ARE big families the “New Green”???  I like to think so!  So many people scoff at large families and try to argue that they are hard on the earth when actually, large families often tread even more lightly on the earth than many average-sized families — by necessity!

Below are my thoughts in response to this article.

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“Cars Count”

I have often thought about how “efficient” it is that we cram 7 people into one vehicle on a regular basis. Sure, our 10-year-old minivan gets a measly 15mpg on average (city), but that’s actually better per capita than a family of four driving a 45mpg hybrid (if my mental pseudo-math is correct). We do go places often, unlike the author of the article suggests. I try to get out of the house every day, even if only to the grocery store (and that, preferably with just one or two children in tow). We go to parks, homeschool events, the library, and playdates at friends’ houses. And these things are located all over the metropolis, which isn’t very green, perhaps, but at least our metropolis is relatively small compared to most — the furthest we ever go is 25 minutes or less away from home, most being 5-15 minutes.


“Economy Size”

Yes, it takes the same amount of electricity to light and cool (or heat, for a very brief part of the year) our home, no matter how many people inhabit it. We definitely use more water than most families, at least for laundry. I estimate that we have 10-15 loads of laundry to wash per week. We do, however, have a “super capacity” washing machine, and I am a stickler to “run only full loads” rule.

When the children were younger, we would combine their baths, to the point that the water consumption probably equaled an average-sized family’s bathing habits. Nowadays, we still combine baths, but are now transitioning to showers often, which, with our low-flow shower heads, I’m hoping use even less water than their “up to your belly-button” baths.

“Cozy Quarters”

There are 7 of us living in a 3 bedroom house (well, 4 bedrooms of you count that tiny room in the addition that I use as a studio…but I don’t).  Yup, that’s the same size as an average  house for a family of four.  But our children don’t each have their own rooms, obviously.  Right now there is a kids’ bedroom, and a playroom, and it works great for our current needs.  When they are older (like, when the older ones hit puberty), there will be a boys’ room and a girls’ room.  I like to think that having one’s own room is overrated.  😉  I have heard many people who grew up in large families talk about how much they loved it, and how close they are to their siblings.  I imagine being crammed together like sardines contributed to that!

“Reduce & Reuse”

We definitely have a tight budget, especially since my husband got out of the Marine Corps and went back to college.  We are currently subsisting on a military housing allowance, grant money, and student loans, so our money must be stretched.  I am a big fan of thrift store shopping.  One of my favorite thrift stores runs daily specials, the best one (in my opinion) being the “Fill a bag for $5” days.  I am able to cram 10-15 pieces of clothing, often brand name, into one of those bags, and then pay less than the price of one new baby outfit from Walmart.  Now that’s thrifty!  I have gone out thrifting and spent $50 total for 2 garbage bags full of stuff.  So much cheaper than buying new!

As for reusing, we definitely do a lot of that around here!  We are almost entirely paperless; the only paper product we buy is toilet paper (well, and printer paper, but that is recycled!), and even that may be on the menu for (at least partial) extinction down the road, although we do use disposable storage bags as well (something that is on my list of things to remedy; I plan to make some reusable food storage bags eventually).  We use real dishes (our original supply is supplemented by thrift store replacements to compensate for children breaking them), and drink out of repurposed pickle jars.  Our babies’ bums don real (cloth) diapers, and cloth baby wipes are used for diaper changes as well as “field showers” for dirty/sticky little hands and faces.  I use cloth menstrual pads that are washed with the diapers.  Instead of paper towels, we use cheap washcloths, bought in bulk.  I think we must have 50 of them, and I go through at least 5 a day, or many more depending on the level of mess!  We use sturdy cotton napkins as napkins, and thin, soft, thrift store ($4/dozen!)  cotton napkins as handkerchiefs!   So that just leaves us with toilet paper, and I have been known to use a dry flannel baby wipe in an emergency, or a wet one from the warmer in place of those flushable wipes.  I love cloth!

Other ways we “reduce” is by me breastfeeding the babies (I finally made it without using a drop of formula with baby #5!), and eating leftovers.  I don’t understand why some people won’t eat leftovers; so many things taste better the next day!  I am a big fan of one-dish meals, so that is especially true for us!  And food that doesn’t get eaten in a timely manner often gets either composted or fed to the chickens; either way making its way back to our table, whether through eggs or garden harvest!

“Make Do”

Our house is almost entirely furnished with hand-me-down furniture.  Seriously.  It boggles my mind when I think about it.  The only things we have bought new (over the course of several years) are our king sized mattress, one twin mattress, one crib mattress, our entryway table, 3 cheap book cases, 6 folding chairs for our dining table, the folding tables in my craft room, and some patio/camping chairs.  EVERYTHING else is donations from family and friends.  Everything.  And I would venture a guess that at least half of our other possessions are either hand-me-downs, gifts, or bought second-hand.  Yes, we are terrible consumers, but it is mighty friendly to both the earth and our pocketbook!

“Pass it on”

We are happily involved in the hand-me-down loop.  We don’t have as many sources for receiving hand-me-downs as we really need, because most of my children are older than most of my friends’ children.  But, when they outgrow things, I enjoy giving things away to friends who can use them.  As I have said, though, most of my childrens’ clothing is secondhand or gifts.  Within our family, however, it’s pass-down central!  I have 3 boys and 2 girls, so technically (though not completely in practice), I should be able to get away with only buying/acquiring clothing for the oldest boy and the oldest girl.  Things are then passed down from sibling to sibling.

I love it when I put something on one of my younger children and mentally count how many children have worn that particular piece of clothing.  There is, for example, a pair of size 2T Old Navy denim overalls that I purchased used when my oldest was a baby, and every single one of my children has worn them since (it helps having twins who are different sizes because then some clothes can be handed down between them!) — so those overalls have been worn by at least 6 children!  To keep the system organized, I use dots, marked on clothing tags with a black Sharpie.  The oldest boy gets one dot, the middle boy gets 2 dots, the youngest boy gets 3 dots.  (I don’t do that for the girls [yet] because they are 6 years apart, so it is pretty easy to tell which clothes belong to whom at this point.)  This dot system helps avoid confusion come laundry time.

All of that said, clothes do wear out, so we do need to acquire “new” clothing (and shoes) for the younger children as well.  That is where thrift store shopping comes in handy.  For example, I have found high quality shoes in excellent condition for $1-3 many times!

“What the Future Holds”

I like to think that the lifestyle we live will make an impression on my children that they will carry into adulthood.  Urban homesteading, something that we aspire to but I haven’t mentioned yet here, is another “green” practice we have.  We are not there yet, but we have chickens and a decent-sized vegetable garden, and there are many many things planned for the future as far as our urban homestead goes.  That, combined with all of our other earth-friendly (and frugal) practices, are a way of life for us.  When my children are grown and gone, they will have these practices ingrained in their minds and hearts, and will carry on the legacy of protecting our earth and saving money at the same time, no matter how many children they end up having.  I, for example, learned a lot from my grandmothers, who were teenagers during The Great Depression and carried many of the penny- and resource-pinching ways of their childhoods into the next few generations.  The things I learned from them made an impression, and I hope to do the same for my own children.

~ Michelle

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Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Our Journey from Public School to Unschooling (Vol. 1)

I often reflect upon our schooling journey. When I started this parenting gig I was quite young and thought that you did things a certain way. When your child turned 5 you shipped them off to Kindergarten and that was that. I can remember Kyle’s first day of Kindy like it was yesterday. We had just got back from a family vacation to Wyoming the day before. I was feeling quite frantic about sending him to school, not because I thought he wouldn’t do well but because it was such a change for us. I knew I’d miss him. I had no idea which classroom or teacher he was supposed to have and that was not helping the feelings of panic at all. We pulled into the parking lot of the Early Education Center and I just had this pit in my stomach.  Kyle came to stand beside me as I was getting the baby out of the car seat all of a sudden seeming unbelievably BIG. I reached down to grab his hand and he turned his little face up to mine and said, “I’m a big kid now, Mommy. I don’t NEED to hold your hand anymore.” and that’s when my eyes filled with tears.

I was really trying to keep it together in front of the boy, lol. I didn’t want him to pick up on my sadness, he was excited. We walked into the office and the receptionist asked if I was okay. Never ask a near crying woman if they are okay, they are probably barely keeping it together, lol. The tears started to flow. I found out where he was supposed to be and dropped him off. I cried for a solid week. I really did miss my boy but he was having a blast at school. It was about the second quarter when things started to go slightly awry. Apparently Kyle was having some difficulty with letter sounds and recognition, not terribly so but enough that he was flagged for additional help. He was placed in a reduction class for part of the day. I honestly didn’t feel he needed it, that he would grow into what they were teaching but they felt it necessary to push it. It was an awful distraction for him during the day. He was in class for 2.5 hours and part of that he was taken for a reduction class which he did NOT enjoy.

The next quarters conferences came up and I decided to tell his teacher that I did not want him to participate in the reduction class anymore. He really didn’t like it and I wasn’t seeing any difference. His kindergarten teacher always had wonderful things to say about him. He was eager to learn, loved to participate, had excellent social skills, and was a pleasure to have in class. Imagine my surprise when he got into first grade and his teacher said the exact opposite about him.

In all fairness, Kyle did have a lot of upheaval the summer BEFORE entering the first grade. I was pregnant and ready to pop pretty much as soon as school started AND his biological father had died suddenly and unexpectedly that May. I think, though, Kyle was so young (he’s a June baby) he really lacked the maturity needed for full day school. They weren’t allowed to talk at lunch or run at recess and I had a very difficult time finding a voice to express my concerns and complaints. He was wiggly, talkative, and distracted in class (who wouldn’t be?!) and his teacher really held it against him. I think he spent the bulk majority of first grade drawing during the day and then doing ALL of the day’s work at night. To say the least it was stressful on both of us.

It was around this time that I felt it would be better to homeschool him, I mean I was already essentially… right? My family was very discouraging during these discussions. I was told I didn’t have the patience and that it wasn’t a good idea, he’d be lacking socially… and on and on. I placed those thoughts on the back burner… and as I reflect back now I wish I had just gone with it. Alas, it takes time to grow into your courage to stand up to people in your life… and I had a path to follow.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our schooling journey!

When a Headache Is Not Just a Headache

Sometimes you fail your children.  Sometimes you fail your children so completely that your not really sure you will ever forgive yourself or that you should be forgiven.  My oldest had been complaining about headaches when she would read or play video games for a long time.  She would tell me that her vision would suddenly blur for no real reason and that a scorching headache would follow. So I took her to our local optometrist for an eye exam.  During the examination I was told that she had seen some swelling in her optical nerves and that although it could just be a variation of normal we should take her to an ophthalmologist just to be sure and she made an apointment for her.

This is where I failed my daughter, we didn’t go.  I did not take my daughter.  I just blew it off.

Several months later I took her back because she had lost her glasses and we needed a new pair.  During the examination the optometrist once again commented about the swollen optical nerves and asked what the ophthalmologist had said about it.  “ummm, we didn’t go…”  She then asked if I would like for her to make another appointment for us.  “Well do you really think it is important?  You said it could just be the way her optical nerves are made.  We really have a lot going on…”  She told us that yes, she would really advise we go, that yes more than likely it was nothing but just to be on the safe side we should go and then she made another appointment.  When the time rolled around the babysitter  for the other children had something come up and couldn’t come so I called and rescheduled her appointment.  The next available appointment was in 3 months.

I took the much later appointment and never once worried about it.

On the day of the appointment  I shuffled some things around and on the way to the appointment thought of the 100 other things I would do after getting home from this “totally unnecessary”  consultation.  I told the sitter we would be back in an hour or two and complained about how doctors are always wanting to run all these expensive tests and that was what was wrong with our medical care in this country.  Waiting in the office my daughter and I sat and flipped through magazines and joked about all those little unimportant things that run through your mind when you have no idea that a real danger is just on the other side of the door.  Or lurking inside, unseen to your mother and beyond her imagination when you tell her you have a headache. 

After all the testing was said and done the news was not good.  Mazzy’s optical nerves are not just a little larger than normal, they are severely and alarmingly swollen.  All around the nice round space that would be a normal image of an optical nerve is the bright white blur with streaks running to the outer corners that is the evidence, undeniable evidence, of excess spinal fluid.                                                                   

It is thought that Mazzy has something called pseudotumor cerebri a condition that mimics a brain tumor and causes intracranial pressure for no obvious reason.  The result, if not gotten under control, is blindness.  Permanent, forever blindness.  That is what I had been playing around with, that is what I risked for my daughter for the sake of convenience and an absurd belief that somehow there could not be anything wrong with her.  Just headaches from not wearing her glasses.  Just a belly ache from eating too fast, or the wrong foods.  Just occasional vision blurs from eye strain after reading too much in poor light.  Just fine, nothing bad going to happen here, move along.  Only this time I had been wrong, so very wrong, and it cost my daughter.

We are scheduled for an appointment with a neurologist for the 4th of May but her medical team is working to try and get her in sooner.  I carry the phone around the house with me everywhere I go and every time it rings my heart leaps, maybe they are calling to say that they have worked her in.  Maybe, in the end, it will not be too late after all.  We have talked about the fact that a lumbar puncture will be a possibility to rid her of some of the excess fluid.  We have talked about how in most cases this can be treated with medication.  We don’t talk about what happens if medication alone doesn’t work.  We don’t talk about how much more seriously I should have taken her headaches…

Over the next few weeks I ask that you please keep my daughter in your thoughts and prayers as she goes through her treatments and travels the path of recovery.  Also I hope that you share this information with anyone that has a teen daughter that has been complaining of headaches, especially if she is overweight, as statistically that is the group that this condition most often compromises.  Usually a headache is just a headache, but sometimes, sometimes it is not.

Five Times and Back Again: A Journal of a Sixth Pregnancy (Vol. 4)

Last week I promised I’d write something about nursing while pregnant… I’m in this moment really floundering at coming up with anything positive about it!! It’s been one of those days where I’m tapped out, touched out, and done.. Logically I know there are MANY benefits to nursing while pregnant. It keeps your little one connected and tandem nursing is an AMAZING bonding experience. With as young as my Marah is still she really needs that and so do I as a parenting tool. What starts to happen, though, is your milk dries up inevitably (though not for every woman) and you go through a spurt of dry nursing. That’s the uncomfortable part. It doesn’t hurt necessarily (at least for me) but it sure makes my skin crawl at times. I’m sure that’s a biological thing as your body and brain make way for the new baby/life you will be sustaining.

Sage tuckered out from her 3rd birthday festivities.

When I nursed Sage through Marah’s pregnancy it was a pretty rough ride, her latch was ALWAYS horrid and while it normally didn’t bother me much at all while pregnant I had to set limits. She was old enough (just over 2) to understand that Mama needed some boundaries. She’s the only baby that I nightweaned, she’s the only one that I told that Mama’s boobies were tired like the sun and could only give her milkies when the sun was up (which actually led to waking at the crack of dawn for a few weeks), she’s also the only one (thus far) that nursed right up to her 4th birthday! (that’s when I gently said… okay, I think we’re done..)

Tandem nursing 3 year old Sage and newborn Marah

This time around I was really quite worried about going through the same hell I went through last time but was pleasantly surprised when I made it through the first trimester and I still had abundant milk. If Marah had anything going for her it was her MOST beautiful latch, it really kept things flowing… sadly though eventually hormones take over and there’s not much you can do about it. There’s no herb, supplement, food in the world that will keep an abundant supply while pregnant. Eventually it will dry up and then comes the dry nursing. EEK!

Sleepy baby

I’ve been trying to capture more pictures of nursing Marah because when I look at them, it makes me feel/see the good parts and removes the negative emotions I have associated with the dry nursing. She looks like a beautifully contented, sweet baby girl and I truly can’t wait to nurse her and another sweet little one.  I’ve been so grateful that I’ve had other women in my life to share my experiences with who have shared the good and not so good of nursing while pregnant and tandem nursing. It’s not an easy ride but it is TOTALLY worth it in the end… I remind myself to take it one day at a time and try not to think too far ahead with it. It’s easier mentally that way.

Sweet little nursling, 24 weeks pregnant nursing 17 mos old

Yummy Monday: Artichoke Rotini (in 30 Minutes or Less!)

This recipe came to me in a dream — literally.  I was taking a nap one day a few years ago.  I was hungry and dinner was on my subconscious mind.  I was trying to figure out how to make dinner with the random things in my pantry (a grocery trip was overdue!); a sort of use-it-up pantry meal.  So somehow, I put this together in my dreaming head.  I woke up and made it, and it has become a family favorite!  And it’s so easy to make!  30 minutes or less from start to finish.  Like most of my recipes, this makes 8-12 servings.  It is also vegetarian, and can be made vegan by omitting the cheese.

You will need:

16 oz tri-color rotini (or similar pasta)

1 medium onion, diced

2 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained

2 cans diced tomatoes, with juice

Old Bay seasoning

~1/2 Cup pine nuts, toasted

~1 Cup grated Asiago cheese (approx 4 oz)

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– Dice the onion and start it cooking in a big pot with some butter (or coconut oil)

– Put salted water on to boil for the pasta

– Cook onions until browned, sprinkle Old Bay liberally.  Stir.

– Add drained artichoke hearts, stir.  Sprinkle more Old Bay.  Cook for a few minutes.

– Add tomatoes (with juice), stir.

– Taste-test for spice strength. Add more Old Bay if desired.

– Let simmer until the pasta is finished cooking.

– Add drained pasta to the pot, stir gently.

– Add Asiago, fold in gently.

– Add pine nuts, stir.

You’re done!  Enjoy!  😀

~ Michelle

P.S. Please let me know if you try this, how your family likes it, and what (if anything) you did to tweak the recipe to your own preferences!  🙂

Five Senses Friday: Unschooling, etc.

[originally posted on my personal blog on 1/28/12]

Watching

~ My twins learn to read and write. I believe in delayed academics, and we unschool, so this sudden interest and progression was a delightful surprise. Coincidentally, this is occurring right after their 7th birthday (which was December 30th), and 7 is the age that is supposedly most appropriate for introducing academics; when the brain is finally, really ready for it.
~ Once Upon a Time, that new show on ABC. Like I needed another show to get hooked on. Thank goodness for TiVo, so I can feed my addictions at my own convenience. 😀

Hearing

~ Children: Playing outside. Fighting. Being silly and loud in the early mornings while I am trying to either catch a few more winks, or sneak out from under a still-sleeping baby. Joy. Innocence (well, sort of…).
~ Audiobooks. The twins love them. I love that they love them. I love that they are being exposed (repeatedly) to classic children’s literature before they are able to read it themselves, and without me having to read it to them (I am lazy…ahem, busy, and reading aloud makes my voice hurt).
~ Soothing music. I have had my “birth music” playing on repeat 24/7 in my bedroom. It helps the baby sleep, and whenever I walk into my bedroom, whether to change a diaper or haul some laundry, I step into a magical, tranquil world, even if just for a moment.

Smelling

Lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils coming from the vaporizers in both bedrooms. Someone has inevitably had some kind of illness requiring such treatment for over a month now. It is a comforting smell. Dropping those oils into the water as I fill the vaporizers each evening is one of those times I feel like I’m “giving from the heart” (NVC reference there ;))…it’s one of those things that I lovingly do to care for my family. I am the healer in this house, which is both a duty and an honor.

Feeling

~ The warm (yes, warm) “Winter” weather. 75-80 degrees almost every day. Only a handful of rainy days or freezing nights so far. Cold fronts few and far between, lasting only a few days. Azaleas are blooming in January!! A winter wardrobe seems like such a waste of space this year! I love it. It’s as if my wish came true: “I wish it was 75 and breezy every day!” — said when discussing my hatred for both cold winter weather and stifling hot and humid summer weather…I prefer Spring and Fall only, thank you very much.
~ Overwhelmed. So many projects, commitments, activities, responsibilities. Every now and then I get to this point where I have to step back and start saying “No.” We don’t have to go to every playdate. We don’t have to go somewhere every day. Need-to-do vs. Want-to-do. Priorities. Must maintain sanity. Must take care of myself. And if that means spending a few days home-bound, puttering on the computer (and spending WAY too much time with the blog…ahem…), well, that’s okay. I deserve it, dammit! #oxygenmasktheory 🙂

Tasting

~ A lot of pasta. I prefer mine with olive oil, salt & pepper, and a healthy dose of fresh, grated Parmesan. (That is, of course, if there is no fresh Alfredo sauce available.)
~ I have also been eating a lot of avocados; sometimes scooped right out of the skin with a spoon, sometimes carefully diced and drowning in red wine vinegar and seasoned salt.
~ Oh yeah, and these super-thin organic corn chips with a dip i make out of sour cream with some “Condimento Completo” in it (whose first ingredient is MSG…a fact I did not discover until I had tasted it, fallen in love with it, and then bought a jar of my own. *sigh*).
~ I also discovered these nifty “steam in the bag” sides at Target that are useful as entire single-serving meals. I really like the Thai veggies & rice one. Too bad Target is such a trek for me. :/

I could go on, but I’ll stop…have I mentioned that I’m a foodie?

Thanks for reading!

~ Michelle

Q&A: How Do You Find Time For Yourself?

This is a very common question!  Here’s what the GMoMs have to say about it…

~ Sasha ~

For many years I didn’t.  As the years have worn on I started to feel a very real sense of “losing myself”.  When I was younger, I was very involved in the arts and drama community, and slowly over the course of parenthood I started to lose that part of myself.  I also had always read a great deal, and I think it was when our 3rd child was around 4 years old I realized it had been years since I had last read a book that was not child or homeschool related or painted/sculpt anything, let alone do anything outside of puppet shows for my children that resembled acting.  I think that was the first time I started carving time out for myself.  I started giving myself permission to “waste” time and read a book again just for the pleasure of it or watch a play and occasionally paint/sculpt again.  The past couple of years I really started working at carving in a little me time again.  I had a long talk with my husband and explained how I was feeling and we both agreed that a changes needed to be made.  Now I get out at least once a week while my husband watches the children, but even at home I have made lifestyle changes that allow me to be alone more.  Although I find parenting greatly rewarding, I now will either wake early or go to bed late to make sure I find time for other things in my life that I also find rewarding.  I find that with a little time here and there to pursue the things that interest me outside of homemaking and parenting makes me appreciate and enjoy my time with my family more, and makes me over all not only a happier parent, but a more interesting one.

~ Nic ~

Time to myself? What’s that? LOL Just kidding… I suppose I do find time for myself but with so many children and such varying ages, I typically always have at least one child with me. When the littles are in bed, I like to sit and chat with my hubby ALONE for an hour or so before I lay down for the night. I tend to get out more when I don’t have a nursling, which has been rather infrequent the past 5 years, but generally I’m okay with that. I’ve always thought little ones are really only little once, it goes by so quickly, so I’d rather enjoy it when they are and find that extra me time when they are bigger, all while realizing I definitely have needs, too.  I know my answer isn’t for everybody, and there are many women out there that crave more me time, and that’s fine too! Whatever works, stick with it and find a balance. 🙂

~ Michelle ~

I have had to make this a top priority, because my sanity suffers otherwise.  I homeschool my children so I don’t have a ton of breaks.  At the moment, my regular me-time routine includes a weekly visit to grandma.  We are fortunate to live just a few miles from my in-laws.  They take the children for 3 hours every Thursday.  During that time, I allow myself to do whatever I want, but only if it’s not something I could easily do with children around, or that my husband would normally assist with (e.g. I do not use this time to go grocery shopping ;)).  I usually end up sewing or writing, but I could potentially take a nap (although naps usually leave me discombobulated and I try to avoid them unless I am just severely pooped), and I have even used alone time to clean in the past!  By adhering to these rules I have made for myself, I am able to enjoy a short but sweet window of time just for me, and since it’s weekly, I look forward to it; it keeps me going!

Something that I believe is extremely important for mothers to do is to keep self-care at the top of the priority list.  Remember the oxygen mask theory, and the saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  It is too true!  And it is vital that the partner (and/or other family or friends) is on board and willing to facilitate breaks.  Other little things I am able to do for myself (with my husband’s support) is shower alone, lock myself in the rec room with snacks, knitting, and TV some evenings (leaving bedtime to Daddy), and sometimes lock myself in my bathroom and paint my nails or so some kind of spa-ish treatment.  I always feel much better afterward.

I also have a few outside commitments that are just for me.  I am part of a NonViolent Communication (a.k.a. compassionate communication) study group that meets every other Monday, where I go and sit and talk with some other mamas about what is going on in our lives and how we can use NVC to work through it (I have repeatedly referred to is as group therapy!  hahaha).  And I sing in our church’s choir, so I have rehearsal every Thursday evening.  After choir practice, a friend (and fellow choir member) of mine and I almost always go out for coffee and sit and talk for a few hours.  I guess you could say that Thursday is my recharge day!  This kind of thing is relatively new, as my nurslings typically won’t go with a sitter (even grandma) until well after their first birthdays.  But I find that before that age, the babies aren’t into mischief enough for me to need too much time away; a break from the older children is sufficient (especially because I can nap with the baby when they are not around!), other than having Daddy do some baby care when he’s home.

~*~*~*~*~

How do YOU find time for yourself?