Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quiet Time

If you are observant, you will have noticed that, e. e. cummings*-style, I neglect to capitalize the titles of my blog posts.  This is to remind myself of how little importance my opinions are.  ([grin] - I'm not sure how effective that is, but it's an attempt, anyway).

Perhaps you have noticed that the title of this post is capitalized.

That is because of its great importance.  I always write about Quiet Time in capital letters.  I even try to speak about it in capital letters, although that is, admittedly, more difficult.

Since time immemorial we have observed Quiet Time in our family.  Originally we called it naptime (I didn't always think to capitalize it then), but as the nappers grew fewer in number - and greater in age - naptime became a misnomer and we transitioned to Quiet Time.

This is what Quiet Time is (for our family):



1)  Everyone is in a separate room (if possible).

2)  No one talks.

3)  Mommy (that's me) gets to read, or nap, or have a snack,
or talk on the phone to a friend without interruptions.
Sometimes, all of the above.



Since it started out as naptime, it was easy at first.  Of course it was quiet; they were asleep!  

But then they stopped needing sleep.  Then it got hard (for a time).  I put on calming music and gave them books to look at and told them no talking.  Someone-who-shall-remain-nameless required quite a bit of training in this.  I had to give up, for a time, my own nap/snack/phone conversation in order to sit in her room with her, at the ready should any corrections be needed (and they usually were). 

Eventually, though, everyone got the hang of it and it stopped being hard and instead became a Thing of Exquisite Beauty, well worth the initial effort required.



In our house now, every day at one o'clock, the children all gather in the livingroom (or the playroom, if Lego projects are in progress) and sit more or less quietly while I read aloud to them from a book.  This is a cozy time and the prime seats are considered to be on either side of Mommy, snuggled up against one shoulder or the other, following along in the book du jour.

By one-thirty, we're usually "right at a good place!" but my throat is parched and after all, it is time to begin Quiet Time, so we put the book away till tomorrow.  If it's a weekday, Sugar, Spice, and Nice gather their schoolbooks and whatever "fun" book they're in the middle of, and Lil' Snip puts a few toys and books into his basket, and up the steps they all go.



* * * sigh * * *



And for the next hour and a half, the house is quiet (except for Lil' Snip's signature request for a bum-wipe:  "I did a poooooo!").

And Mommy gets to read her book, or take a nap, or talk to a friend on the phone without any interruptions.

And when three o'clock arrives, restored by solitude, we are happy to see each other again.



And that, my gentle reader, is Quiet Time.






* [I feel it only honest to add that I know nothing of the poet e. e. cummings other than his uncapitalized name, and what wikipedia just told me.]



Saturday, September 20, 2014

proof positive

For those of you who read my last post and are feeling concerned about my qualifications for motherhood, I want to reassure you (if it were possible) with the following facts:


(First, I know I don't deserve them.  No one ever deserves the gifts they are given.)

I love to hug my children and they hug me back.  The feeling of one of my offspring snuggled up trustingly beside me is immeasurably precious.

They smile when I kiss them.

I enjoy working beside them, cooking, or sewing, or doing yardwork.  I even enjoy teaching them these things.

According to them (despite my offering proofs to the contrary), I am a kind, patient, and funny mother who is never selfish and always puts them first.  (Let's just chalk that up to the optimism of youth, shall we?)

I love giving them good things - a favorite meal, a sweet treat, a small gift picked up while I'm running errands - just to see their faces light up with pleased surprise.

They trust me.  Confide in me.  Offer their journals to me to read.

I ask for their opinions and preferences when we make schedule changes or plan family week (photos coming soon ... !).

They still call me Mommy, despite hearing their friends move on to "Mom."

Most of my waking hours are spent considering what is best for them.  They fill my prayer time; God has heard more from me about my children than about any. other. thing.

I trust them.  I regularly answer their "Should I ___ or ____ ?" with a confident "You may choose.  I trust your judgement."

It's true that I dearly love Quiet Time.  It's true that evenings, after the children are in bed and it's just me and my Farmer, are one of my favorite times of the day.  It's true that I look forward all month to the time when my own mom comes to spend the day with my children so that I can (one sweet day a month) meet a friend, or go shopping for fun, or walk in the park with just my thoughts and the birds to listen to.

I am wired for solitude.

And I am a mother.

And I love my children.



[I just don't love to play their games.]



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

child's play

There are times, I will admit, when - caught without a legitimate reason to decline - I get roped into coloring with Lil' Snip, and I end up enjoying it.

Times when the playdough comes out and he's been deprived of my company to a guilt-inducing extent and before I know it, I'm rolling and sculpting, having fun.

And then, there are times like today.

When I'm on the floor, prone, a reluctant driver of Hess trucks (I never get the one I want, no matter how sincerely he seems to be offering it; in Lil' Snip lingo "Which one do you want?" is code for "Which one do you think I want you to have?"), and I succumb.

As soon as he seems to be adequately involved in truckplay, I close my eyes and take a micro-nap until he notices, which I am happy to say can be an entire minute or longer.



Just wanted you to know, from one "supermom" to another.  {*wink*}






Monday, September 08, 2014

how to (mostly but not really) ruin bread

Bleary-eyed, I should have gone to bed a crazy hour ago, but as usual I'm smitten with must-have-recovery-time-itis and am staying up way past tired in order to .... um .... read facebook and tell you about today's bread-baking fail.

I was going to teach Spice, who is always eager to get her hands on a new kitchen skill.  Actually, Sugar was assigned to teach Spice, but then Sugar got wrapped up in making a K'Nex tow-truck for His Imperial Majesty Lil' Snip, and as I would always rather work in the kitchen than with toys of any kind (although I must admit that K'Nex and Legos, once you are roped into using them, are head and shoulders above *shudder* dolls), I quickly acquiesced to a change in plans:  K'Nex for Sugar, bread-baking lessons for me and Spice.

Spice eagerly located the recipe, read it twice per my instructions, and assembled her ingredients.  She measured and stirred like a pro, and only turned it over to me when her arm was exhausted.  I got the kneading started and then gave her a shot at it.  Her hands are still too small for a three-loaf batch of dough, but she gave it her best effort, and compensated nicely for her handicap.

We tucked it into the warmed oven to rise. . . .

. . . . came back at the timer's cue to punch down the bread and shape the loaves.  This time Spice just watched the shaping.  Another time or two, with her sharp eyes recording every nuance of motion, and she'll be ready to do it herself.  We set the resting loaves back into the oven to rise a second time, timer cued once more.

When it rang, I set the loaves on the counter, turned the oven on, and paid some bills while I waited for the "click" that signals the oven has reached temperature.  Placed the loaves into the heated oven, and then set the timer for 20 minutes - guesstimating because I'd let an known number of minutes go by before remembering the timer.

It called me back all too quickly and I pulled open the oven door to check them.  Wow, they got big ... but still too pale.  A few more minutes, then.

Five minutes later they were still awfully pale.  And then it dawned on me:



The oven was on WARM.


WARM.

Not, for instance, 350 degrees Fahrenheit, as the recipe specifies, and as I have successfully accomplished for each of the roughly 18 million previous times I've made bread.

Nope.  "Warm."

Well, there was nothing for it but to crank up the heat to 350 and hope for the best.  I mournfully apologized to Spice for ruining her first ever batch of bread, and she cheerfully offered to help me mix up another batch.



I am here to tell you that if you let bread rise for 30 minutes in an oven set on warm, after it has already risen for its allotted time of 30 minutes, and only then turn the heat on to the proper temperature . . . .

. . . . the world does not end.  The bread, despite my pessimistic certainty, was not even really ruined.  The center of each loaf will be too crumbly for sandwiches, to be sure, but it tastes great.  We'll snack on it, or at worst, turn it into bread crumbs for all those recipes that I don't use that require breadcrumbs.




So it often goes with life:  Something [small] goes awry.  Unplanned.  Skewed.  I lose my cool, convinced that all is now doomed.



And life goes blithely on, largely unaffected by the bumps in the road that I mistook for mountains.



{I dunno, ya think there's a lesson in here somewhere??}








Tell Me a Story

Friday, August 29, 2014

the proper way to honor a potato

"Ahhh," says I, fully satiated after our supper of roasted red potatoes, peas, roast chicken, and watermelon, "now that was a meal!"

"Yup!" agrees Spice, "some people don't like to eat hearty, but we do!!"

She is right.  We do!  And if you, like us, enjoy eating "hearty", here is a recipe for your files:


Roasted Red Potatoes


(I'm pretty sure you will enjoy these no matter what kind of potatoes you use - I've used all kinds - but the ones we had tonight were especially spectacular, probably because my Farmer grew them in the richly pampered soil of the chemical-free CSA farm he manages a few miles from our house.  (click to visit the farm blog, facebook page, and local harvest listing)  They were tender-skinned red potatoes, a variety called Chieftain, turned out of the earth just days ago.)

So here's what you do:

Preheat the oven - 450 degrees Fahrenheit and not one degree less.  This is not the recipe to skip preheating.

Parboil the potatoes (we decided it must mean "partially boil" but never did look it up) - basically cook them in water so that they're not raw, but not perfectly soft, either.  If you're a purist, you'll boil them in their jackets (that's "skins" to us regular people).  If you're short on time, like I was, you'll cut them first - cubes, wedges, half-wedges, as you like 'em - and then parboil them.  Took about 10 minutes.

Drain the water (eternal optimist that I am, I saved the water for potato bread that I probably won't get around to making.  Feel free to pour yours down the pipes.)

Gently tumble the parboiled potatoes into a 9x13 glass pan (or if you like scrubbing, use a metal pan - do they even make those anymore?).

Add oil - peanut is what I used - and seasonings (I recommend salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and thyme).

Carefully turn the potatoes into the oil and seasonings.

Roast 40-60 minutes.  

Resist stirring, except for twice.  Trust me on this.  You will interfere with the incredible french-fry-like crust that forms if you stir too often.  So set your oven timer for 20 minutes and go read (or rot your brain on facebook or something).  You may stir when it rings, and not before!  Add more paprika if you want the potatoes to brown more, or faster.  Add oil (more peanut, or coconut) if your potatoes drank up their first dousing.  Then 20 more minutes of whatever, stir again, 20 more minutes and you're ready to call the family to the feast!

And a feast it is.  I sincerely hope that your roasted potatoes are every bit as satisfyingly delicious as ours were.


(We were too busy eating to take pictures at the table, and the only reason there were any potatoes left over to photograph later is because we were also eating roast chicken, our all-time favorite!)


(If you're a local reader, you can better your odds by signing up for a share at my Farmer's farm!  Late entries to the season are pro-rated.)




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