When You’re NOT DIY

It seems like I’ve spent the better part of four years reading about doing it myself, practicing doing it myself, figuring out ways to do it myself- it’s been a huge hobby for me, trying to figure out what I could get away with making, fudging, or substituting.  Homemade bread, soy milk, snacks, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, yogurt, granola, clothes, dolls, sacks, jewelry, and gifts.  Tried the homemade slug bait and shampoo.  Did cloth diapers and gardening.   Did the canning thing.  I’m really proud of what we’ve learned over the past couple of years, even if what we did wasn’t QUITE as effective as store bought, or quite as nice.  We’ve saved a ton of money, learned how to be more self-sufficient, and learned to use what we have instead of immediately assuming we need to buy something from someone else.

BUT.  Well, I’m pregnant and it seems a lot harder this time.  After 26 cumulative months of baby carrying (and about five years of nursing so far), my hips don’t like me.  My back doesn’t like me.  My round ligaments…well, they’ve just about staged a revolt and I spent almost the entire weekend on the couch trying to let them recover.  Thankfully, they’re better and I can mostly walk now, and I’m getting to be really good friends with supportive belts and straps to hold up with ball of baby I’m carrying.

But what I really want to say is how grateful I am to my husband.  I had very nearly created a home in which ONLY I could do the work.  No one else knew how to make the bread, run the soy milk machine (or the recipe to make it sweet like Mimi likes it.)  No one else knew that to wash diapers, I used one scoop of laundry detergent plus TWO scoops of baking soda, and filled the bleach cup with white vinegar, and run it all on sanitary.  Oh, don’t forget to dry on “normal” but you have to punch the timer up to 50 or the sensor will shut the load off early because it’s so small.

But over the weekend, my husband staged a much-needed coup.  He bought bread, and he bought dish detergent.  He bought laundry detergent, and shower cleaner with bleach.  He loaded the dishwasher with all kinds of things I’d never dare put in there (like pots and pans…didn’t want them to lose their shine!)  Our toddler is wearing disposable diapers right now, and had store bought soy milk for breakfast.  Most of all, he bought my health and my gratitude.

When our toddler refused to let me put her shoes on, and said “NO!  DADDY mommy do it!”  I just had to smile.  Daddy-Mommy indeed, and I couldn’t be more grateful!

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Dealing with the Leaves and the Pumpkins

We WORKED on Saturday.  My goodness, we got a lot done, but my body is still trying to recover!  It felt so good to get so many Fall chores done, though.

When we let the girls pick out pumpkins this year, we knew they would eventually become food.  At first my oldest was pretty upset when she discovered that I planned to chop up and cook her masterpiece, but when I listed everything it could become…she made me promise that her pumpkin would become PIE.  Yes ma’am!

After a good scrubbing, and a lot of full-arm-rotation-hacking with a cleaver, the girls’ pumpkins were de-seeded and loaded into the oven and stock pots to cook.  (And call me a heretic, but nobody really likes pumpkin seeds around here, so I didn’t bother spending the hour it would have taken to prepare them for roasting!)

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(I filled two trays like this, plus an extra-large stock pot)

While the stockpot full of pumpkin pieces and a bit of water cooked the squash in a portion of the time it took in the oven, I preferred the roasted squash.  It came out drier and denser, with a nice color and a richer flavor.  I roasted the piece skin-side-up, but had already flipped them over by the time I took this picture.  Oh, and yes: these are pumpkin patch “Jack-o-lantern” pumpkins.  Undoubtedly, sugar pumpkins or another variety would yield a better end result, but we’ve been cooking and eating these for at least a decade now, and no one ever says no to our pumpkin bread!  (Well, OK, the “we” here more accurately refers to my twin sister, but yes: she’s been doing this for a looong time.)

After the pumpkins were cooked and cooled, I scooped the flesh into an enormous bowl and used my stick blender to puree it all.  After that, the puree was loaded into a colander to drain for a little bit- remember, these pumpkins ARE more watery, and if you steam the pumpkin it only exacerbates the condition.  About 15 cups of pumpkin puree was loaded into Ziploc baggies and laid flat to freeze in the chest freezer, and the rest was cooked on the stove with some sugar and spices into a thick pumpkin butter.  From everything I’ve read, pumpkin butter is unsafe to can at home, so I loaded it into hot, sterilized half-pint jars and left them outside to cool before I put them in the freezer.  Perhaps I should have put them directly in the freezer, but I wanted to get them as cool as possible before I loaded them in.  You’ll see why.

While I spent my morning dealing with 30 pounds of squash, the husband tackled the soggy leaves outside.  He blew everything into the lawn, and then ran the mower over them (with the blades high) to collect the now-mulched leaves into the bag.  He ended up filling our FOUR spare garbage cans!  Whew.  I’ll use some to mulch our spring bulbs, some to “lasagna mulch” some particularly weedy patches, and leave whatever is left in the cans to compost down into leaf mold.  (Leaves shouldn’t go in regular compost piles, from what I understand- once wet, they become a soggy, impenetrable mass that is best left to decompose on it’s own, and they’ll take about 2 years.)
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After all this, I left shortly after we got the girls in bed and picked up an order of chicken from a case-sale company.  About $52 for a 40 pound case of hormone-free, natural chicken breasts.  I didn’t quite know what to expect, but those monsters were HUGE.  Like, 2 breasts weighed about 3 pounds.  I spent 2 hours processing the chicken, into the late hours of the night, but now I have 5 pounds of ground chicken, 10 pounds of whole breasts, 15 pounds of boiled and cubed chicken, and 10 pounds of cubed raw chicken, all in the freezer.  (See why I didn’t want piping hot pumpkin butter in there?!)  I checked the next morning, and everything was nicely frozen, so that was a relief.

The Morning in Pictures

Where I wished I stayed this morning.
Autumn Bed

What my husband will be doing next (couple of) weekend(s)

Time to rake leaves!

What I am completely embarrassed that a friend from church brought by, but am LOVING.
Donuts from a friend

(She brought donuts to church one week on a day I forgot to pack a snack for church for myself, and I didn’t have time to grab one in between class and changing the little one’s diaper and playing prelude for our sacrament meeting.  I whispered to my husband to check and see if there were any left in the kitchen, because I was *that*  hungry, and there weren’t…and he asked her about them…and she brought me a half dozen for my very own.  And I am so embarrassed, and no, that isn’t glaze you see on the corner of my mouth.  Of course not.)

Isn’t that a silly picture of my bed?  It’s completely goofy, but I always change our bed up when the seasons change.  Right now it’s a fluffy white duvet, white flannel sheets, an old pilled fleece blanket underneath that my husband’s grandma made for him when he was a boy, and a crocheted throw that my grandpa’s mother made.  Oh, and green pillows.  I tossed the gold and red and blue pillows back into the kids’ play room, until the next time I feel like I want sparkly jewel tones in my bedroom.  I’m sure no one but myself really notices what the bed looks like, but it makes me happy!  (My husband has an excellent eye for colors and design and such, but he normally gets out of bed before I do and goes to bed after I do.)

Mimi found our “base 10” blocks I have set aside for math concepts and lessons- so far we’ve used nuts and acorns and raisins and such for our math lessons.  These kept her occupied!

Playing with the base 10 math blocks

Ernie helped me make a “gel bag” with hair gel and a ziploc bag, and she worked on tracing her letters through the gel.  The goo provides a nice resistance, but I think on a different day I’ll let her add some food dye to the bag to make her marks a little clearer.
tracing letters through a gel bag

 

It’s Monday “Baking Day” so the girls helped me make a batch of wheat bread dough.  We had circle time and practiced some of our memorized verses (set to music) too.  This afternoon will be busy, with a much-loved nephew coming to play and piano lessons.

Chores

Sometimes, I feel like an actual adult.  Like the days I remember to make my bed, AND start a load of laundry, AND clean the kitchen before I go to bed, AND vacuum the crumbs under the table, AND put the bills in the mail box, AND make dinner…and then I remember that I’m not actually doing all that, I’ve trained the kids to fight over my chores.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but running a house with kids in it would be really hard for me if the kids didn’t actually participate in running the house.  Plus, obviously they need to know that it takes work to make the world go round and that life really is better when you can walk through the play room without dying from fall-related injuries.

chores

Chores that my five-year-old can help with:

  • Unloading the dishwasher, and putting away the dishes
  • Running the crumb sweeper
  • Taking out and bringing in the rolling garbage cans
  • Putting mail in the mail box
  • Putting away her toys and books
  • Setting the table for dinner
  • Clearing the table after dinner
  • Loading the dishwasher
  • Switching the laundry (I turn on the dryer)
  • Unloading the dryer and bringing the full laundry basket up the stairs
  • Putting away her laundry

Chores she’s learning to do:

  • Wipe down the table after meals
  • Wash the windows with a rag
  • Helping to sort the clean laundry by person

Chores my 2-year-old can help me or her sister with:

  • Putting books and toys away
  • Running the crumb sweeper
  • Loading the dishwasher
  • Unloading the dishwasher (she hands dishes to the person putting them away)
  • Putting away her own plastic dishes in the drawer

Music at Home

playing

I caught this sweet shot of my daughters the other day, playing quietly.  I generally discourage toys in the front room, but we have a stack of library books for school, a few bowls of acorns and nuts to sort and dump for an Autumn sensory activity, and our instruments.

The kids basically have free-reign on the electric organ and upright piano, so long as they treat them gently and use only fingers on the keys.  So far we haven’t had any trouble teaching the girls the rules at a pretty early age, knock on wood!  We also have a basket of egg shakers, castanets, rhythm sticks, wooden percussion instruments, maracas, a tambourine, and a vintage toy xylophone.  The kids LOVE making music- even Mimi will pull out favorite song books and pretend to sing her favorite songs as she flips pages and bangs away on whatever is in front of her.  None of these instruments seem too loud when they’re playing them (unless we have a house full of guests!) so that’s nice.

In other news, I tried making almond milk at home, using this recipe times 4,  and I probably wouldn’t do it again.  It’s much more expensive than soy milk (1 cup of nuts was a little less than a pound and cost about $4 in the bulk section and made 4 cups of almond milk, whereas 100 grams of dried soybeans cost less than 50 cents and make 8 cups of soy milk.)  Besides, I loved the taste of the Silk brand, and mine tasted nothing like that.  I guess I’ll treat it as a treat, kind of like store-bought eggnog is a treat.  Yeah, it’s totally bad for you, but if I’m going to buy a really special drink, that’s what I’ll reach for.