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Archive for the ‘General Musings’ Category

Driving Over Lemons

For Ashley and Caitlin, today is officially the first day of summer. It is the first Monday morning that they don’t have to get up at their usual time of 7am and then go to school. All the children seem to be embracing this first day of summer. It’s almost 9am and everyone of them is still asleep!

Most surprisingly even Sean, our early morning alarm clock, has jumped aboard (or should I say cuddled up) to the big summer sleep. He is usually awake by around 6am and likes to play quietly in his room until just before 7. Then he tries to wake Ethan by calling out, though it really sounds more like a groan. He doesn’t touch Ethan to wake him, strangely enough. If he is unsuccessful waking Ethan, he then calls out for either James, myself or Ashley until one of us comes to let him out of his room.

So here I am having a slow start to a peaceful summer morning. I’ve seen James off to work. I’ve eaten a leisurely, uninterrupted breakfast and researched some online sites on planting parking strips for some gardening ideas. And now I have some time to write a blog entry. I’m loving our summer already 🙂

Although, unlike the girls, today isn’t the first real day of summer for me. That was Friday. And no, it wasn’t because it was the last day of school. Nor was it the successful unveiling of the final assembly slideshow and the yearbook distribution to the kids. Those are all the hallmarks of the end of the school year but it happened when I settled into bed on Friday night.

Exhausted from all the work with the school photo projects and end of school year activities, I snuggled down to read book nine in the Martin Beck series I’ve been reading on and off for more than a year. As I read the first couple of pages my brain stopped and said “no”. It felt like a winter read. A detective story that for me is best read on dark evenings either by a fire or under a duvet. Not under a sheet and lightweight blanket with the sun still coming through the blinds. That’s when the image above popped into my head. I wanted to read travel literature again and that’s when I knew it was summer.

I returned Martin Beck to my borrowed books shelf and reached for Driving Over Lemons. Ian and Janet gave me this book (nearly a decade ago?) written by Chris Stewart who retired as the original drummer for Genesis before the group became a huge success. This book tells of his adventure buying a remote farm in Andalucia in Spain and relocating there with his wife to live a fairly idyllic life (after all the trials and tribulations of settling in to a new life in a foreign country).

When I finish this lovely little book I have a number of other books of travel writings left over from last summer, when a similar transition hit last October and my brain stopped and said “enough” of summer reading. I love the seasonal cycles and how my mind and body have their own ways of marking the beginnings and ends.

So here’s to a glass of chilled Riesling, relaxing in my sunny well-tended back garden, happy children keeping themselves occupied (well it is my dream after all) while I read about other people’s travels and imagine the possibility of some travels of my own this summer. Cheers!

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check mark    check mark check mark

As I find myself daydreaming about things I would like to be doing, but have not yet been able to act upon, I am finding it helpful to shift my thoughts to things that are currently happening and that are working well. My daydreaming leaves me restless. My reflection on family routines that are working relaxes me.

We are very fortunate here that James’s job allows for him to be with us in the morning for breakfast and back in the evening for dinner. While the changes in roles and duties that his presence has brought about has taken a little time to adjust to, we seem finally to be entering a flow.

Weekday Mornings Routine

Alarm goes off. 

James:

  • Wakes girls
  • Frees the boys 🙂 (They have a child safety handle on their doorknob inside the bedroom  to prevent Ethan wandering around without supervision during the bedtime hours. Sean is still in a crib.)
  • Showers and dresses
  • Takes breakfast requests (within his weekday breakfast limits)
  • Heads downstairs to make breakfasts and his lunch

While I:

  • Nurse Sean
  • Read a story to both boys as I nurse
  • Say good morning to, and sometimes with, Ashley and Caitlin
  • Change the boys nappies/pull-ups
  • Take Ethan to the bathroom
  • Send boys downstairs
  • Have a shower
  • Start a laundry load, strip beds or fold some laundry depending on what day it is and what tasks  need doing.

We eat breakfast.

James:

  • Takes girls to school, nearly always accompanied by Sean and sometimes by Ethan (who seems to be more of a homebody at this hour)

While I:

  • Finish my tea
  • Assess what needs to get done during the day and create a check list.

James returns from school. The boys and I say goodbye as James cycles off to work.

My day with the boys at home begins.

Evening Routine

  • The girls do homework.
  • I cook dinner or put it together from having prepared it earlier in the day.
  • James returns home from work.
  • We eat dinner together.
  • James and I alternate taking the boys to bed and cleaning the kitchen after dinner/supervising the girls’ chores.
  • Ideally, there is then time after the boys bedtime and chores for James and I to enjoy time with the girls before their bedtime (sometimes dallying over homework or chores means these tasks need to be completed in the time before they go to bed :()

As I write this time I can see that we really do have a great deal of rhythm to our days as a family. These routines don’t always run smoothly but they tick along most of the time. Homework and chores are still a work in progress with the girls, but we are starting to have some fun evenings before their bedtime playing Yahtzee or Scategories or reading in the living room together. Some evenings, if the boys have had a very late nap, they join us in the living room. They both enjoyed playing “Pagliahtzee” with me and James one evening recently. (Ethan came up with the names. He has confused Pagliacci Pizza and Yahtzee and run them together. Sean copies Ethan a lot, so now they both call the game “Pagliahtzee” :))

It really helps settle my mind to focus on what is working around here. Our morning and evening routines are working well and act like anchors, giving me a sense of place and purpose with my family. As I reflect I take a deep breath and exhale with a sigh. Life is Good!

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ChangeByTryingNotToChange

Image Credit: happiness-project.com

Lately I have noticed a paradox in how I am going about my days.

I enjoy taking care of our home. I have been enjoying baking and cooking, and love the feeling of calm productivity I get from my Monday routine. On Mondays I make all the beds, vacuum the bedrooms and clear out any rubbish before collection day on Tuesday. I am even experiencing a great sense of satisfaction from getting all the laundry done on Mondays and trying to have it all put away by Tuesday. Putting laundry away has always been a thorn in my side. I like the feeling when it is all neatly put away but used to dread the process of getting to that point. Now I’m able to focus on the simple joy that comes at the end and that gets me through the actual putting away.

I enjoy being with my children and my husband. I enjoy meals together, playing games, watching movies, little trips together to somewhere as simple as the library.

I enjoy the books I’m reading right now. I’ve been on an Italian kick and working through some novels and travel memoirs that have been in my Great Unread Pile.

I enjoy the voice lessons I take with my husband every other week. It’s fun to sing duets together.

I enjoy the currently limited time I spend with friends, whether in person or on the phone.

I’ve also enjoyed each season this year and have slowly moved through the seasonal transitions. This year I didn’t hop straight from summer to winter which I have done many times in the past. I’ve enjoyed Autumn, the cooler days, the turning colors, raking and playing in the leaves, the rainy days and the shorter daylight hours that draw me to the fireside.

Through it all I notice deep down that I’m feeling a little lost, a little alone and a drop in my energy. I find myself daydreaming about things I’d like to be doing and, when it comes time to act, I don’t. Maybe it is natural with the year coming to a close and winter about to settle in. Maybe I can just watch the paradox and work through it. Maybe I will continue not to act or try and fix it. Maybe I will just be with my family and sit by the fire, or play a game or read a book. Maybe I could just act small and take a walk alone, or engage in yoga at home alone, or sit in my room and read alone or go to a local coffee shop with my book and be alone. Maybe…

Does anyone else feel a strange diminishing of energy and lonesomeness at this time of year?

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At the start of the week, with only two days to go before returning to school, our family hit two stores in order to get all the girls’ school supplies. Actually the entire six of us went to one store and then James took the girls to the next one to polish of the supply list while I took the boys home for their naps. I managed a two hour nap too. Delicious!

When I woke up the girls had returned and their new supplies were gathered on the kitchen table. The thrill! The excitement! The newness!

They particularly love their sparkly new pencil cases: purple for Ashley, blue for Caitlin.

In the quiet of the late afternoon I found myself smiling for them, remembering how much I enjoyed gathering together my school supplies when I was a kid. My uncle Jimmy worked in office supplies and he would visit us shortly before school started with most of our school supplies. I would spend the last few days of the summer vacation itching to write and write and write on those blank pages of my copybooks.

In all the excitement of the return to school we also feel a little sad that the summer vacation has ended. Despite my up and down summer I have loved having all the kids home, with no school schedule to follow and lots of down time for us to enjoy small pleasures.

My surprising thought as I looked at the girls’ supplies, and fondly remembered my uncle Jimmy and his school supplies drop off, was that I wish I homeschooled.

No, I haven’t lost my mind 🙂 I know homeschooling would be a lot of work, but the number of hours it would take to complete the course work is a lot less than the number of hours they spend at school and we could control our own schedule.

More control over our daily schedule and more time with all the kids. That’s a very appealing thought right now. I’m going to miss my girls now that school is back!

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Photo Credit: My daughter Ashley

I’ve been having an up and down summer. Every so often I’ll run into someone I know, or kind of know, whom I haven’t seen since before the summer and the standard greeting seems to be, “How’s you’re summer going?”

I’m discovering I’m no longer a pat answer kind of person. Now I’m not saying that I’m spilling out tales of woe to anyone who greets me 🙂 It just doesn’t sit well to say great, wonderful, really good in reply. Yes, there are great, wonderful, really good aspects to my summer and there are also times when I’m really not having any fun.

Now when asked I have simply started replying, “Oh up and down”, which is exactly how it is going. I also continue to remind myself that this is just Life.

These recent inquiries about my summer have actually left me feeling some gratitude because it has caused me to pause and reflect on both the good and not so good that have made up my summer so far. Mostly summer offers an easier counterpoint to our usual Autumn/Winter routines. I love having the children home (mostly!). I love not being confined by the 9-3 schedule of the school day. I’m even learning to appreciate the summer weather here in Seattle, because really I’m a winter girl at heart and love living in this notoriously rainy city.

I don’t need to recount the challenges of the summer or my recent brush with resigning from job. We all have our own details. What I am going to do over the next two and half weeks is focus on what I have enjoyed. I am going to try each day to spot the moments of joy that are all around me and I’m going to savour the freedom of the summer schedule before my girls head back to school. We have no plans, other than to celebrate Ashley’s 10th birthday at the end of the month and that suits us all just fine. Lots of days left, no doubt with ups and downs, to be spontaneous and lazy and perhaps even a little bit, delightfully bored!

How’s your summer going? 🙂

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…amused, listening to my little boys playing together in their bedroom. I can hear them through the ceiling of the kitchen. They love to play peek-a-boo with each other, tickle each other and share cars and books through the bars of Sean’s crib. They even have a game where Ethan sits on the floor with his back to Sean’s crib, Sean pushes him through the bars, Ethan pretend the push makes him fall all the way down to the floor and both of them giggle very hard over it!

…pleased that Ethan is a very articulate 3 year old because he can relate to me in great detail all that goes on in their bedroom in the mornings.

…warmed by the memory of my book club meeting last night and our block party the night before. Coming into this week I wasn’t sure I had the energy for the various social commitments taking place each evening. I was surprised at just how much fun I had at our block party. Unusually for us, our family stayed until the end, though the boys went to bed just shortly before the party packed up.  At book club we had great food, laughter, excellent discussion about the book, life in general and our own lives in detail.

…a little tired, following two late nights socializing. I’m tired in body, but more refreshed in spirit.

…happy with the little trip to The Fat Hen I took with my daughters yesterday afternoon. I have been craving some time alone with them for quite some time now, but both the summer schedule and James’s biking schedule haven’t left me too much room to figure out how to do it.

…grateful to have employed my friend’s daughter as a mother’s helper this summer. It eases some of the hyper alertness required taking four children out of our house and also made taking my girls to The Fat Hen possible.

…delighted still that my friend and her family decided to move back  to Seattle this summer after a move to Colorado. They were very much missed by me and my family and by our larger community of friends and neighbors. I have my friend back, my daughters have their friend back and I now have a mother’s helper/babysitter that I love and trust.

…anxious that some personal baggage that I’ve been carrying around nearly all my life will never go away. I’ve been challenging myself to overcome some of my ways of interacting that are no longer helpful in how I live my life or want to live my life. This personal challenge has made for a rocky road this year and, while I think/hope it will pay off in the end, it’s the middle that is exhausting and scary at times. It’s hard to look your dragons right in the face.

…excited about the rest of the week ahead. There appears on paper to be a good balance of socializing and downtime to hopefully further restore my soul.

…relieved about the rest of the week ahead. Despite my doubts on Monday I think that I will not only make it through the week but will continue to enjoy it.

…thankful for the blogs I read that are written by other mothers sharing their journeys. This morning I am particularly thankful for Kirsten over at The Frugal Girl, who inspired today’s post. She has written a few of these and today I felt like giving it a try myself. Thanks Kirsten.

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“Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.” -Barbara Jordan, U.S. Attorney

Last month while on my weekend away to Idaho, glamping at MaryJane’s Farm, I found this lovely white enamel lunch pale and milk crate with bottles in the MaryJane’s store in Moscow. I have been hunting for little milk bottles like this for about six years, ever since I attended srapbooking retreats at Katy’s Inn in La Conner, Washington. At 10pm, after a long day scrapbooking and socializing, Cindy, the owner and chef, would serve us freshly baked, warm chocolate chip cookies along with cute little bottles of milk. I fell in love with the idea of milk and cookies presented in this way and looked forward to it each time we headed up for a scrapbooking weekend.

I am now pleased to have my own set of little milk bottles to fancy up our afternoon milk and cookies. The kids loved the milk bottles, and what I am now calling the cookie canister, when I first presented it to them earlier this week. This is turning out to be a lovely afternoon tradition for the summer and I can see it working well for our after school snack during the school year too 🙂

Here are links to some of our favorite cookies:

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

And here are a few other favorites that we’ll be enjoying over then summer (I just don’t have the recipe pages finished yet):

Oatmeal Craisin White Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ginger Spice Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cranberry Almond White Chocolate Biscotti

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