December 30, 2016

7:55 I wake up to see Jayson walking out the bedroom door, on his way to eat some cereal, hug the kids, and leave for work a few towns away.  I check Facebook and e-mail while my brain is waking up, then get dressed.  I step on the scale on my way into my closet- up a pound from yesterday.  I never thought achieving obesity would be so easy, nor that I would look so much like myself when I got there.  I’m four pounds into the Obese Range, and I have been hovering around that mark for years.  Drives me mad, and I brainstorm new ways to build muscle mass without using my hands because the cyst in my wrist is the size of a grape right now, and my carpal tunnel and te-no-sy-no-vi-tis the doctor’s call DeQuervain’s is acting up.  (It means my thumb base joint really hurts.)

I get dressed into workout clothes, same as I do every morning: I earn an outfit and a shower after I’ve gone on the treadmill or done some heavy housework.  I make my bed and pull open the blinds on my way out the door.

8:30 I’m in the kitchen, and hungry.  So hungry.  I mix up my morning protein shake, dose out my daily meds, and…..load the dishwasher and wipe down the sink.  Cocoa has wrapped a loop of string around both shoulders and tells me “I’m your reindeer!  Drive me!”  I drive him over to the table and sit down with my breakfast.  I contemplate the crumbs under the table and wonder whether I will sweep today, or whether I will have the kids do that chore.  Do I want it done well, or do I want a teaching moment?

9:05 I’ve started this post, in a burning desire to find it what I actually accomplish in a day and why I am so tired at the end.  I call the kids for school- “We’re all together again, we’re here we’re here” we all bellow as our traditional start to the school day.  Madeline gives a prayer, we say the Pledge of Allegiance , and Ernie starts singing.  I don’t know why or remember when, but this song is now a rock solid part of our daily Morning Circle Time.

“There’s a right way to live and be happy, it is choosing the right every day. I am learning the teaching of Jesus, He will help me and show me the way.  Choose the right waaaaaaaaaay, and be happpyyyyyyy, I will always choose the riiiiiiight!

We say our weekly verse, and the kids break up.

Ernie heads to the couch and opens the lap top.  I pick up her manuals and ask her to open her history book.  She takes notes on the ancient history and trade of Egypt and Nubia.

Mimi opens Khan Academy on the desktop and works on earning enough points in her math studies to level up her monster avatar.  She finished her monthly work last week, and has earned a week off of her school curriculum, but I still insist on an hour of Learning. (Her choice of topics though.  The first few days she studied ancient mythology.)

Mimi drops a snail she made out of nano blocks on my desk.

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9:30 A package arrives.  Expecting it to be the crowder peas I ordered for New Years Day, I’m surprised at how light it is…but it’s my 10-foot-long dryer vent cleaning brush.  Yippee!  I am one cleaning instrument closer to being an Adult, and not Screwing Up.

10:00 I set Ernie to doing her spelling, and then looking at the revisions I gave her for her paper yesterday, and head upstairs to clean.  I pull the clothes out of the dryer from last night, and start jabbing that wonderful brush in the lint trap.  Truly impressive.  I love it.  I pull out handfuls of wadded up dryer lint, fold and put away the laundry, turn on the dryer, and head outside with a step stool and my new brush.

Perhaps scrubbing out the dryer vent from the outside, with the dryer running, and no eye protection is not the best way to approach this cleaning task.  But my GOSH is it effective and satisfying.  I scrub and scrape and pick at the vent, and soon my deck looks like it’s been raining volcanic ash.  (I’m a Seattle girl, Mt. St. Helens is part of our collective psyche.)  I trust the wind to carry it away, and let Ernie help me pick all the bits out of my hair and sweater.  I need to sweep the deck anyway, it’s been a while, but the wind here is strong and frequent so it’s not a pressing task.

11:00 Mimi finishes her time on Khan Academy, and Cocoa starts his after Ernie helps him log on.  I am so glad the girls like to help him with projects like this, because it drives me mad.  I start Ernie on her math and grab a bite to eat.  I’m not normally this hungry, but I feel like I might pop someone’s head off soon.  Glass of water and a bite of a protein bar, I’m good.  My FitBit says I’ve not even gone 1,500 steps today, and I slept 6 1/2 hours last night.  The treadmill is going to be rough this afternoon.

I promised dinner to a gal who has the flu, and kind of planned on dropping that off during my hour lunch break, so I could get other stuff done in the two hours after school before dinner.  Guess treadmill will need to be later in the day.  I hope she likes my workout clothes.  I hope the grocery store likes my work out clothes- I’m heading there first to grab a salad and dessert.  Maybe I will change my clothes- what’s more important, my dignity or something that reminds me to work out?

11:30 Mimi and Coren are back outside.  They practically live outside these days- the sun is glorious here!

11:45 Ernie promises me that she will finish her math before lunch, and I head out the door to the grocery store to take dinner to the lady with the flu whose basement flooded yesterday.  Been there, done that, she deserves a pizza!  Grabbed two pizzas, two salads, and two boxes of cookies- might as well get dinner for us while I’m there!  I decided last minute that the meat loaf in my freezer wasn’t going to be nearly big enough for her two adult, one teen, two child house.

1:00 Round trip, the whole thing took a little over an hour- I’m home just in time to grab a glass of water and start Ernie on her next thing for school.  And yeah, I had a slice of panettone cake.  Because YUM.  It was my birthday present from Jays, we opened it last night.  (A buttery, egg-y, really tall yeasted Christmas bread/cake with citron and dates.) I send Mimi upstairs to start on her weekly chores- clean and vacuum her room and bathroom.

2:00 My stomach is trying to eat itself.  I grab another 32 oz. glass of water (I finished my first one), and heat up a tortilla with swiss and ham.  And then have a scoop of PB.  WHY AM I SO HUNGRY TODAY?  Ernie’s done with spelling and grammar now, and working on science.

3:00 Science is done, she knows all about esters and compounds and carbohydrates…and I cut her loose.  It’s 50 degrees outside, we have two hours of light left, a cold snap is coming, and she’s 11.  So close to getting her monthly work done, she literally has half a school day (a computer lesson and a math lesson) plus reviewing before her test.  I really don’t feel like getting on that treadmill, but I promised Jays a date night tonight and so I need to go earn that shower and outfit.  I think I’ll go around the neighborhood instead- the kids will be fine, right?

4:30 Yeah, that workout was rough.  I think my FitBit is acting up- there’s no way my heart rate was just over 90 if I was working that hard.  Or maybe…I’m just that big of a pansy.  Earned my shower though!  Kids are all still outside, the wind of awesome and the sun is just starting to dip.  It’s perfect.

5:00 Got my outfit, and Ernie made hot cocoa for everyone- they’re finally indoors.  Their hair looks amazing.  Trying to decide if I need to take a nap or practice piano more.

5:15 Jays is home, and we whisk out the door.  I’m saved!  Kids make plans for Netflix and corn dogs and have a great night at home.  Jays and I try a new sushi place.  Eh.  They have an all-you-can-eat option for $24 that we decline, but their smoked salmon, agedashi tofu, and crispy salmon skin are all fantastic.  We stock up at Costco on milk, soy sauce, and salads for the week and then swing by the grocery store for gum drops.  Ernie had a science activity come up today that looked really fun, but required gum drops.  I think all the kids are going to have fun making organic compound molecules tomorrow.

8:15 We’re home, Ernie is cleaning the kitchen.  I tuck the littles into bed, Jays unloads the groceries and gets ready for bed, and I sit down at the computer to deal with the new stack of insurance notices and bills that have rolled in.  It’s taking a remarkable amount of organization to pay the bills for Jays’ broken finger in October.  Over the twenty-two bills we’ve seen so far, insurance has paid out almost $5.5k, we’re in almost $3k, and I have a spreadsheet and a file folder system to track it all.

9:00 Ernie is working on school work (her choice, not mine) and bills are paid.  Trying to decide if I should start working on Christmas cards (New Years’ Cards…) or go see if there are groceries to put away.

9:30 Go to make myself a cup of orange peel tisane and found out the spoons are dirty.  Ernie unloaded the dishwasher (yay!) but didn’t run it (oops.)  She and I fetch all the dirty dishes out of the cupboards and load them into the pantry dishwasher, including all the spoons.  I use a paring knife to scoop my tea bag out of my mug, add some almond milk and splenda, and sit down to contemplate….something.  I’m sure there is something in my head.

Ernie sits with me to chat about tomorrow’s chores and the agony of finding out there are new My Little Pony episodes just as you’re turning off the TV for the night.  She’s finished her tech and math lessons, plans on doing her last poetry lesson tomorrow, and will get ready for her test.  Jays is downstairs watching Sports- we’re getting close to the Final Showdown for College Football Players and there are games to watch almost every night, tucked down at the end of his Google calendar.  My tea got too strong and too cold while I loaded up the dishwasher, so I enjoy some of it and leave the rest.

9:50  It’s nearly 10.  Why am I just sitting here?  Downloaded my photos for the day and did some light editing.  Loaded a few to Facebook, I think it’s time to change my hard-earned outfit for some pajamas.  I need 800 steps to hit my 10k goal….the power of three grocery trips plus a spin on the treadmill!

10:00 Found pajamas and joined Jays in the basement to watch the football game of the night- Michigan and Florida.  Michigan played an awful game, almost caught Florida at the very end, and lost by one point.  They complained bitterly about the final calls, but I’m thinking they should have stepped it up way before then.

11:00 Heading up to bed.  Never did reach that 10k step goal though.  We’ve been  getting news of a serious medical emergency in the family, piece-meal, through out the day.  I read through what we know while I brush my teeth.

11:30 Jays turns on the audio for where we’re studying in the scriptures together and we listen, under mounds of blankets.

11:45 I hear Cocoa thump in his room- that’s my cue to go pile him back into bed because most of his body is on the floor.

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12:00 Lights out, and prayers for Jays’ family and my children.

Becoming What you Need to Be

I love Fall.  Scratch that.  I hate Fall.  Can I do both?

I love starting over- the school year starts fresh, the summer garden is composted, the sweaters and baked goods come back to our home.  It’s the time to re-stock the pantry and garage with enough storage produce to get us through the winter.  We check our drawers and closets for what’s worn out and outgrown and just plain missing.  We fluff and clean our nest, to get ready for a long cozy winter.

But, it’s a hard time of year too, isn’t it guys?  Time for a whole new round of “Guess how you’re screwing up your kid this school year!”  If you haven’t played that game, just pay attention to the news for a bit- they’re always cheerfully compiling the next “Ten Ways To Be Perfect” list, and you can check yourself against that. (This game is ESPECIALLY fun for homeschooling families like us- you wouldn’t believe how many people are willing to drop everything and tell us how much we’re screwing up!  Am I right?)

As we compost the garden, we get to take one last painful look at everything that just didn’t work.  Barren tomato plants, mildew-y pumpkin leaves, bolted heads of cabbage.

And don’t get me started on the pantry.  Am I going to can my own peaches this year?  The ones my husband will eat by the quart with gusto?  Or will we make do with a few boxes of apples in the garage?  Am I going to scramble to harvest our plums for jam before the squirrels strip the tree?

(Ernie, looking up and realizing she’s standing underneath the Seattle Space Needle.)

There are an infinite number of ways to be inadequate in this life…if you insist on trying to be someone else.  As we get ready for this new season, don’t forget to be what you are.  Do it with a smile.  Do it with your head held high.  Do it for you, and your family.

Ask yourself what you want to be.  What do you want to BE?  How will you get there?  What does God want you to be?  What does your family need you to be?  Take a deep breath, make your choices.  Make sure to take time to clean out your spaces inside of you to make room for a new season.  Clean out what’s not working, make it into something new for today.



Make a Wreath with Garden Cuttings

I finally dove into our busted bushes after the winter snow storm- six feet high, and all bowed to completely block our side path.  Definitely time to get a move on that chore, yeah?

bushes and fence

Part of the problem is that these bushes make bright red, gorgeous berries, in the Fall.  So, of course, I won’t let my husband prune them until the berries mature, and I’ve had a chance to get them all for myself.  Which means it never happened, I should never put chores off.  Then, add 8 inches of heavy snow, and voila: total obfuscation of the garden path.

I hacked my way through today, with some really strong snippers and loppers, and gathered as many berry heads as I could find.  The baby kept me company on a blanket on the lawn (totally normal behavior for February, right, sitting in parkas and ski caps on the lawn in the sun?) and I wove all the berries into my grapevine wreath.

berry wreath

berry wreath

berry wreath


So there you have it.  You can totally turn yard clippings into decor.

The Five Machines I Don’t Want to Be Without

As my “end of harvest season” work load ramps up, I find myself using my favorite tools over and over.
So, here is my list of Big Ticket Items that make this kind of life easy.  Well, easier.
Also, in the interest of making myself feel better, NO.  We did not spend thousands of dollars kitting ourselves up in style.  We’ve been lucky to gift, thrift, or exchange for the bulk of these items.  In fact, the freezer is the only one we went to a store and bought straight out.  I’m only printing this list in the spirit of sharing what has really, REALLY helped alleviate the work load for me.
  1. Deep freeze.  You can always find pounds and pounds and POUNDS of meat, cheese, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and pre-prepared foods in my freezer.  (Bulk batches of gnocchi and pot stickers, anyone?)   What would be better?  An upright freezer would be an awesome substitute for this.  On the plus side, easy to organize, easy to find space to “flash freeze” things on cookie sheets, and easy to find things.  On the down side, more expensive to purchase, more expensive to run.
  2. Stand mixer.  I have a shiny red Kitchen Aid.  (Well, it would be shiny if I took the time to clean it properly, daily.  Let’s not nitpick.)  Our family eats roughly a loaf of bread every day, so I make two-loaf batches every other day.  Roughly.  A two loaf batch fits perfectly in my mixer, and it is SO NICE to put everything in, turn it on, and walk away to let it mix.  I come back every so often to add more flour or check on the dough ball, but my hands-on time is cut down drastically.  What would be better?  A bosch mixer can handle much larger batches of dough, so if you’re wanting to make mondo batches of bread (up to 4 loaves at a time) Bosch is the way to go.  Or, do it by hand.  But that’s not really the point of this list, is it?
(The only photo I could find of my beautiful red machine…isn’t it nice?)
chocolate chip cookies
  1. Grain mill.  I have the WonderMill, and love it.  L.O.V.E.  No, it’s not cheap.  But, I can get white winter wheat for 46 cents per pound, bulk, and make bread that would cost $4 at the store.  It’s healthier, it’s cheaper, it tastes better, and it will pay for itself!  One thing about this mill- it only makes flour.  No cracked wheat.  No cornmeal.  Grinding wheat and popcorn together makes the best corn bread you’ve ever had, but you can’t grind your own polenta.   It will grind any grain, bean, or seed provided it isn’t too oily.  I’ve even ground my regular short grain rice to make a pretty decent mochi, when the craving strikes.

(Image from

  1. A big, fat blender.  I have a VitaMix, inherited from my parents.  Yes, it’s 30 years old.  Yes, it’s chrome.  Yes, it’s a BEAST and I love it.  We use it for smoothies almost daily, plus soups, sauces, hummus, bean dip, etc.  If this thing ever dies, I am going to use the Vitamix “trade up” credit to send it in and order a new one!  (You buy a Vitamix from the company, then send in your old one and they’ll refund $100 as a “trade up” credit.  Sweetness.)  Oh, and I’ve heard that this blender can double as a grain mill!  This particular model, I’ve not been impressed with the flour I got out of it.  However, a chef friend has a newer one, and doesn’t even bother with his grain mill anymore.

Old Vitamix

  1. My Sauce Master.  You’ve probably never heard of it, but I don’t want to make apple sauce or apple butter with out it!  And, considering that I normally process 2-4 cases of apples every year, that makes it essential.  You put your soft fruit in that funnel up top, turn the crank on the right, and it’s spiraled through a sieve-lined tube.  The good stuff comes down the chute in front, and all the detritus comes out at the end of the pipe.  This particular one is vintage, and a much-appreciated gift from my mother-in-law when she was cleaning out her cabinets before moving.  Only, now she doesn’t ever remember owning this, so where it came from is a bit of a mystery!  This monster can make juice or puree.  (I dream about having enough grapes to make grape juice.)

making applesauce and apple juice

And there you have it!  What’s on YOUR list of “don’t wanna live without it”?



Things To Do This Week

To Do:

  • Transplant tomatoes to gallon pots
  • Transplant gallon tomatoes to larger greenhouse pots- my early girls will live in the green house this year
  • Transplant basil to planter pots
  • Weed west garden strip
  • Spread finished compost by cucumber seedlings
  • Feed and paper the large worm bin
  • Vacuum upstairs
  • Make yogurt
  • Pit and freeze bing cherries
  • Teach 1st grade lessons 10-14, plus review of first section
  • Library
  • Wash darks, whites, kids, and towels
  • Sew baby gifts
  • Order pictures and fill frames for family photo wall
I’m hoping to get all the garden transplanting done tomorrow!  The cherries and library and half the laundry are done already, plus two of the five lessons and the vacuuming.  Not such a bad list, right?
Have I mentioned my girls are fruit fiends?  I started them on the cherries- we pulled all the stems off our 3 pounds of bings, and started pitting them.  Wonder Boy needed his dinner, so I left them on the  kitchen floor with an assortment of bowls.  Pitting cherries is one of Ernie’s favorite kitchen tasks, so this wouldn’t be a problem at all!  Umm…so why were then 40 more pits and pitted cherries when I came back?  I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to fix Mimi’s explosive digestion issues, that’s for sure.

A Normal Day

I blogged about a…SPECTACULAR day (read: not awesome day) a while back over at my other blog.  Today, I want to write about a normal day, that actually worked!

5:00 am, I opened my eyes to find the toddler in my room.  I tucked her back in, and MIRACLES, she stayed in bed till 6:30!

6:30, toddler and big girl are up for the morning.  They watch one cartoon while I get my wits about me.

6:45, baby boy gets up and eats- ANOTHER night sleeping all the way through!  Way to go, baby boy!  I think it’s been a week since he started this delightful trend, I seriously hope he keeps it up.  Out of my three kids, he’s the first who doesn’t use nursing as a comforter.  He regularly falls asleep on a blanket on the floor, or in his bouncy chair.  I almost never nurse him to sleep.

blender pancakes

7:00 I make blender pancakes for breakfast, with wheat berries, oats, fresh eggs, and soy milk.  So very, very good!  (The splash of vanilla and a few Tbsp of sugar helped, haha)

Old Vitamix

8:00 Baby boy goes back down for a nap.

8:30, I teach my first piano lesson of the day.  He absolutely nailed both recital pieces, hooray!

9:00, I take my shower

9:30, baby boy is up again.  I teach Ernie’s piano lesson for the week- we review forte and piano, and practice keeping a steady rhythm with no breaks in between verses or lines.  She’s doing great!

10:00 Set the girls down with workbooks at their desks, and start grinding wheat for bread.  I clean the kitchen and make a batch of all-wheat dough.  It’s my favorite recipe- just water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt, and wheat flour.

rod and cube math

10:30, work on 10’s and 1’s with Ernie, showing her how to group her rods and cubes into double-digit numbers.  SO glad she grasps this quickly this morning- we tried a few months ago, and she had no clue what I was asking her to do.  Once she gets the hang of making her numbers, I show her how to add double-digit numbers with her rods and cubes, and write a list of problems on the white board for her to work out.  (And make double-sure there’s no carrying needed in the addition!!)

double digit addition

11:00 Roll the dough into loaves and set in the pans to rise.

The next hour is spent changing diapers, keeping Ernie on task, and supervising kids when the toddler keeps trying to commandeer all the rods and cubes for her game.  The girls eat the last of our last batch of bread, sliced apple, and chocolate mochi for lunch.  YUM!

12:15, girls are in bed for naps (after we put away all the clothes and shells they put on the floor this morning.  WHY do I have to walk them through cleaning up their clothes before every  nap and bed time?  Reminds me of my own childhood…*blush*)  I spend nap time feeding  and playing with the baby, and messing around on the computer.

2:00 Ernie finishes reading and comes out to join me.

2:15 Mimi comes out demanding her older sister answer the indignant question “Why you go all gone!!?”

2:30 The girls are freaking out over…something.  The sun is shining for the moment, so we head out for a walk, and a quick stop at the park.  Yay!

3:30 Start my afternoon lessons.

4:30 End my afternoon lessons, and feed a FRANTIC baby.  Timing wasn’t great today- we didn’t get home from our walk early enough to feed him, and he was asleep until 20 minutes into my first lesson.  He has a cold, because otherwise two hours between snacks isn’t enough to make him mad!

5:00 Start cooking rice for dinner- we had a fabulous sushi night last night, and I’m looking forward to a repeat tonight (although, we’ll probably do it “chirashizushi” style, with toppings on top of our rice bowls!)

6:00 Head out the door with the family for a picnic in the park!  Chirashizushi is very portable.

7:30 Back home, get ready for bed.

8:00 Girls are in bed, baby boy is dressed and diapered.  Fingers crossed his bedtime is soon, haha

9:30 Baby is in bed!

The School Room

In the flurry of getting ready for baby, I messed around a bit with our school room.  Time to re-assert the “school” part of that room!

This school room is a sunken room, just off the kitchen- our house is a plain vanilla split-level, with a bump out on the back.  The school room is part of that bump out.  The kids like to hang out in there while I’m working in the kitchen, and inevitably loads of toys try to take up permanent residence.  For now, they’ve been banished back to the basement playroom where they belong!  I want this room to be a tidy, organized, well-lit place for the kids to work and read.


OK, so it’s not terribly well-lit in this photo, but it was about 9:30 at night, and I’d just finished organizing everything!

The easel in the corner is great for math, practicing letters, note rhythm patterns, and keeping the two-year-old occupied.  The opposite side is a white erase board- I don’t like it as much as the chalk, since the kids tend to smash the heck out of the markers in short order, and those pens will stain anything they touch.  We get out our dry-erase markers as a special treat!  I’m keeping the chalk in the art cupboard (see below) so I don’t have loads of chalk sitting out for toddler fingers to get into.  The kids are free to get out the chalk when they want to work with it, and put it away when they’re done.  The nice thing about this room is that it IS centrally located- it’s not necessarily the space for open-ended free play, and I can remind the girls to put away their supplies.

The chairs are big and comfy- perfect for story time with the little one while her big sister is working at her desk, and basically just perfect for getting comfy in.  My hope is that I can nurse our tiny, and still keep the bigger girls engaged in school.  You can’t see it, but there’s a big wicker basket STUFFED with our board books- Mimi will happily sit in anyone’s lap for an hour listening to these stories and pointing at the pictures!  That will probably be a nursing-time activity as well, to help Mimi feel like Mommy still loves her, even though a small peanut wrapped up in blankets has taken up seemingly-permanent residence in my lap.

The desks are probably vintage, from a local Freecycler- she had about 30 stacked up and ready to ship to an orphanage in India, but the shipping container was too full.  All of Ernie’s workbooks are stored in her desk.

The large cupboard was another Freecycle find (I use Freecycle so much I was recently bumped up to “no moderation needed” status.  Hooray, my posts go straight through, no more waiting for a mod to find time to approve!)


On the right are things the girls have free access to all the time- games, puzzles, card games, magnetic and paper dolls, their own drawing boxes, coloring books, scratch paper, and a big box of assorted crafty supplies like glue and scissors and stickers.  On the left is the “mommy” side- paints, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, construction paper, ribbons, “saved from the recycles bin” craft supplies, little wooden things to paint and color on, large sheets of stickers, etc.

The girls love having a dedicated “work” space- I don’t think they understand that’s what it is, but they love working on quiet activities in here, it’s just calming.  I like not having the distraction of toys during school time (and not accidentally stepping on toys!)