Monday, October 27, 2014

THE week


You guys, this is the week.  The beautiful, magical, perfect week of autumn when the leaves are all changing colors, clinging to branches, and then gently falling to the ground.  It is dry and cool and still warm in the sun.  It is the week that makes me love autumn unlike any other season, even though it means that winter is around the corner, and winter just might be cold and long like it was last year.  But this week I am not at all thinking about that, because all you need to do is step outside or open a window and be overtaken by the beauty of this season.

We had our neighborhood Halloween party and pumpkin carving competition this week, which is always the official kickoff of Halloween week.  Theoretically, it would help me get everyone's costume together so we are all ready for the big trick or treating day to follow, but my children have for several years embraced this as an opportunity to have two costumes in a single year.  Clever little things.  The girls decided they wanted to be "the goddesses of Olympus," which was one of those proud moments that made me realize that we are succeeding in raising nerds!  I love it!  Zosia was Athena, goddess of wisdom, perfect for her, as Zosia is Sofia in Polish, and Sofia means wisdom.  Lily, with heavy coaxing from Zosia, decided to be Persephone, and I am quite certain she never really knew exactly who she was, nor how to pronounce her name, but man did she look cute with that wreath on her head.  We spent the afternoon looking up toga tutorial videos, and right after painstakingly pinning and tucking their sheets just so we went to the party, where the kids immediately started running around like crazy and the togas came apart immediately.  I think that the gods and goddesses of Olympus did not run around like crazy.  We didn't really have anyone else's costume together, so I'll just have to surprise you how everything turns out on Halloween.

We went on a long meandering walk on Sunday, enjoying Halloween decorations and fall colors.  Lily has been carrying a doll or two in a sling for the past three days, and she is the *best* mother to her little babies.  She carries them, and puts them in carseats, and nurses them when they're fussy, and puts them down for naps.  I took the four littlest kids with me to the grocery store on Friday, Lily with two babydolls in a sling, and I think we were quite the spectacle, parading around the store with babies and slings and tiny little people everywhere.  And yet people were absolutely delighted to see us, smiling and waving, and even walking up and saying "Congratulations!"  You know, it really is true that there are good, kind people everywhere.  Sometimes you have to look around a bit, but they're there.

Happy fall, friends!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Breakfast to Dinner


You know it's been a good day when the bookends of the day are molasses spice cookies (with coffee with cinnamon) in the morning and pumpkin bread at bedtime!  It has occurred to me that in this space it appears that we eat primarily desserts, which would be slightly misleading.  We do enjoy our baked goods, though.  But just for the sake of balance, here are some pictures of a tasty fifteen bean soup I like to make whenever we have a ham bone and some leftover ham pieces in the fridge.  The big kids have about a spoonful each with coercion, but Ben, the babies and I love it, and it makes plenty of leftovers.  And once it sits in the fridge for a day or two, it thickens slightly, and tastes delicious in a seven layer dip, so how's that for versatility?

It has been chilly and rainy these past couple of days.  The type of weather that makes you want to stay inside all day, which, come to think of it, is pretty much what we did.  I set the girls up with a pumpkin bread mix in the kitchen and challenged them to cooperatively make the bread entirely by themselves, and they succeeded with flying colors!  The only thing I did was pull down a bowl, a spatula, and then place the finished product in the oven.  See, this having kids gets easier and easier with time, and before you know it, they're baking you pumpkin bread!  (Note: that was yesterday.  Today the girls couldn't even take a bath without a conflict arising.  Hrmph.)

And while I'm still talking about baked goods, those spice cookies were really tasty.  They actually call for pepper, which I was quite skeptical of at first, but yielded a very tasty lingering flavor that didn't taste like pepper at all.  I'll add them to my list of tasty things with weird ingredients like black bean brownies.

I've been on a project to accumulate cloth napkins at the thrift store the past few months: my criteria was mainly something that wouldn't show stains (aka: with a pattern and not white) and made from a non-fussy and durable material.  We have quite the hodgepodge, but it has been a success, and I am glad not to be dealing with paper napkins anymore.  The added bonus is since they are unique and distinct from one another, we can remember which one someone used from one day to the next and don't have to wash them with each use.

And I must say a word about Hugo, who, as he reminds me throughout the day, is on my team.  "We're on a team today, Mommy!" He'll exclaim upon awaking in the morning.  And then he will ask to kiss me, and hug me, and walk around from one person to the next doing the same. He has so much love.  He says the most hilarious little things during these flurries of affection like, "You are so honored for me, Daddy!"  We don't even know what it means, but it is said with much love and energy and this little boy is the sweetest.  He also has such strong feelings about little things like, I don't know, which cup he gets at dinner.  We are always trying to help him out through involving him in what's going on, or asking him beforehand which he wants, or reducing the choices being offered (insert parenting advice of choice here), but sometimes he's simply frustrated and upset.  The trails of being three and a half.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Just barely

::The mantel is full with seven little pumpkins and our fall corn husk angel.

  ::This is what the laundry looks like after it is folded.  I have learned that piles of clothing categories work best, especially given the fact that three of the kids dress themselves, and clothes will get jumbled in their drawers anyway.  It may not meet the approval of Martha Stewart, but it works just fine around here!  I should note that when my mom comes to babysit, despite our urging, she always ends up folding all the laundry, in which case it is much more tidy.  Maybe there's hope for me down the road.

::The other day we got some little push toys for the twins, and Dorothy immediately pulled up and started pushing around.  With each step it looks like she will just barely stay up, but then she takes another, and another.  Her three eldest siblings, watching from the sidelines, burst into the most genuine, heartfelt, loud applause.  There was cheering and clapping and jumping and smiling and yelling from joy.  The jubilation continued for the duration of her pushing around the living room, and she just stared from face to face with the biggest grin, clearly quite proud of herself.  It was one of those moments that filled my heart to the brim for these siblings that love and encourage one another.  

::Clara, on the other hand, is quite happy just to pull up and stand.  She does this for many seconds before collapsing back down on her bum.

::Bath time has often moved into the afternoons, which is a great activity for a family full of people who love to take baths.  Our schedule doesn't allow for it every day, but when it works out, our evenings seem to be more relaxed, and bath time can last for a little longer, which makes everyone happy.

::I tried this apple pie the other day, and it was tasty!  Sour Cream Apple Pie, doesn't that peak your interest?  I'm not ready to abandon a regular old apple pie, but it was a big hit, and a nice way to spice things up (no pun intended) during this abundant apple season.

::Some beautiful fall flowers from Ben's parents, who came by this weekend for the first time since Ben's mom's hip replacement surgery earlier this month.  

::The  babies are almost exclusively finger fed, which works pretty well for the sake of practicality, but has meant a shift in how we feed our babies.  Usually, we just keep a food grinder at the dinner table and mix up whatever we're having.  But for these babies, favorites are cubes of cheese, frozen vegetables (eaten frozen!), tiny pieces of apples or grapes, and goldfish.  I would say they have pretty hearty appetites.

::We enjoyed our first outdoor fire of the season, which means fall is really here!

::I have finally picked up some knitting: a red sweater for Hugo, who is the only child of mine who currently does not have a single handknit item.  Red, because it's his favorite.  Spidey colors, you know.  It feels so good to be knitting, and even when much of my daily work is immediately undone (dishes? laundry? tidied living room?), I can look down on a few rows of knitting and know that these will stay put for quite some time.

::And in another indicator of fall season, we have started bundling these babies up!  I have learned that when cold weather strikes, the way to go is a fleece warm suit that has flaps to cover both hands and feet.  There's no way babies can kick off shoes or pull of mittens, and it has a hood, so they're good to go. I ordered a couple for the babies thinking that I was planning way far into the future and then bam, the weekend hit us with temperatures in the 40s.  I think it's going to be another chilly winter!  I have always been a huge autumn lover, leaning unhesitatingly into the cooler days and beautiful colors.  Fall is spectacular in Virginia.  But I must admit, this year these seasonal changes are striking me with a tint of melancholy.  Shorter days, changing seasons, there's a way that they bring on a feeling of solitude that can be rejuvenating or lonely depending on how you receive them.  My prayer is that each day I will reach towards rejuvenation and gratitude.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sabbath



We've been thinking about what it means to make Sunday a day of rest.  The idea of rest is very appealing when you are chasing after nine month twins, I'll give you that. But in a larger sense, setting aside Sunday as a day of rest gives a beautiful rhythm to the week.  An order.  And doesn't it make sense that God created it to be just so, presenting us with this gift of sabbath, knowing that we, just like God, need rest.

We have been taking small steps to set Sunday aside.  The easy part is spending time together.  We have always been a family that prioritizes family time over a lot of other good things: sports, hobbies, exciting adventures, even time with friends or at organized church activities.  It might be going for a walk, a bike ride, reading together or playing a game, but more often it's just embarking upon our own little projects and games in one another's company.  I love the picture above, which has everyone at the table doing different things: Ben is feeding babies, Zosia is helping Lily with homework, and Hugo, not pictured, is across the table peeling labels off of fruit (awesome way to keep a three year old occupied for thirty minutes!).  It's a great example of what I mean about being together but embarking upon our own projects.  

The tricky part is making our time together restful for everyone, especially as two adults who have five little children in their charge!  Fun is the easy part, restful is harder.  This past Sunday, late in the afternoon, I realized I had not gotten off of my feet yet that day.  And I hadn't really been doing anything aside from the regular day-to-day stuff of having a big family (getting kids dressed for church, feeding little people lunch, going to pick out a few pumpkins and mums at the garden center)!  I had made sure to pick out a simple dinner I could get started in the morning, and tried to get ahead on housework during the week.  Ben swooped in and gave me time for a fifteen minute catnap, which always seems to do the trick, and that gave me a feeling of rest amid activity.  

But here's the thing: I know that it is possible to actually rest, in a kick up your heels sort of way.  I did it when I was pregnant with the twins (just this time last year, come to think of it).  But making the decision to rest in a setting that has a lot going on, whether it's two members of a couple pursuing demanding careers, families where both parents are working (I don't know how you do it, guys!), a single parent, or a bustling family just like ours, does mean letting go of things being "just so," and for our current stage in life, a little extra planning.  It also means saying no to a great many things, which is hard!

I am hoping that with time, our small efforts will start to shift the way that things feel.  I would love to find a sense of peace and order at whatever stage of life we might find ourselves, and I really do believe that taking a sabbath is one of the keys.  

Have any of you tried or succeeded in making Sunday a day of rest?  What does it look like for you?