Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Around the Table

We have just entertained a 24 hour stomach bug at our home for the last couple of days.  You know, because we're so hospitable.  Big kids were spared, thank goodness, and the rest of us are only a little worse for the wear.  Ben and I learned that sometimes even two sets of hands to hold two babies is not enough to keep everyone happy, which threw us all for a loop because usually these twinsies are so cheery.  Whew, we were tired out yesterday.  But, as Pa from Little House is oft quoted as saying in our house, "There is no great loss without some small gain," and sometimes these bugs leave you with a sudden surge of energy in their wake.  Maybe it's just the relief of feeling normal after a day or two of lethargy.  And just so, this morning we all woke up refreshed after a good night's sleep and we're back to the lovely day to day business of summer.  Mornings at the pool, early afternoons resting and reading, late afternoon doing arts and crafts around the table and cooking.

Clara and Dorothy have started regularly joining us at the dinner table, and I can't tell you how full it makes my heart.  Five little bodies, five voices, five personalities.  I think Ben and I have sat around a dinner table together every day of our marriage, save for the few days that one of us has been elsewhere or we have some exciting event.  And babies, toddlers, and little children have joined us there, along with friends or family members.  It really is sacramental, this coming together to nourish our bodies.  There's something so centering, calming, and rhythmic about it (even on days when it feels like chaos and cacophony, and there are plenty of those!).  The babies get something special, preferably something which will take a loooong time to eat (spaghetti seems to work well), and Hugo and Lily are not (I repeat not) allowed to sit next to one another.  Too much poking.  Zosia makes the perfect buffer.

I'm also sort of loving how easy it feels to throw together a meal in the summertime.  It can be as easy as grilled meat, some raw veggies, and toast.  Or nectarines and whole milk yogurt for lunch.  Lily helped me make some granola with nut flour and oats the other day (this is the recipe that we use, replacing nut flour for regular), and it seems to fill our tummies a little better until snack or lunchtime.  Our family saying for granola is "Half a cup will fill you up!" or, as Zosia the resident poet ammended, "Half a cup is quite enough!" which we especially make sure to recite to guests who, accustomed to grocery store cereal, might mistakenly fill their bowls to the top and later regret it.  With plenty of protein, and healthy fats, and a serving of whole milk (can you tell we're all about the beneficial dairy fats?  No skim milk here, thank you very much!), it makes breakfast a much more nourishing affair.

Friday, July 11, 2014

This and That

::"How old do you have to be to have your paintings in an art gallery?"  She pauses to consider.  "Probably six or seven."  She could color all day, and I am happy to let her.  There's nothing as motivating as doing what you love.

::Zosia, Lily, Ben and I have been reading Nancy Drew every evening after the littlest three are in bed.  I am hooked!  It makes me think that there just might be some mysteries right here that need to be solved.
::This little thing has spent the entire summer in line for the diving board, or jumping off of it.  A daredevil, to be sure, and fearless and a little sassy.  Of all my children, I see my own childhood personality reflected in this one. 

::Clara and Dorothy are on the move!  Slowly, but purposefully, and in exactly whichever direction they wish to go.  I don't think we've ever had a six month old crawler before, and here we have two!  And now is when I madly start to think of how to babyproof.

::Which means we have to enjoy our baby holding while we can!  I think we would be perfectly happy to keep these two girls as little babies for a little while longer, but they are eager for independence, and are well on their way towards attaining it.  Could someone please invent a way to freeze babies in time for a little while?  Any inventors out there?

::"I have something to tell you!" he tells me every morning when he wakes up.  "Today I will be" and then he inserts whoever the imaginary of the character might be.  Spiderman (though he's only ever encountered him in a book!), or a superhero, or a fireman.  He lives in his imagination, this one, and it's the most entertaining thing for all of us.  Yesterday, we spent the whole morning awaiting Spiderman, who was coming over for lunch ("Today I will be Spiderman's friend" was yesterday's announcement).  It turns out Spiderman likes to eat chicken, broccoli, eggs, pasta, and rice.  You know, good growing food.  Those superheros really need a lot of growing food.

::We walked down to see the fireworks with my sister, Aunt Irene, and cousin Grace (with Zosia and Lily, above).  After a couple of hours of rolling around the biggest hill in the neighborhood with every kid for a five mile radius, the fireworks finally went off.  Our big kids were pretty happy when they finally collapsed into bed at eleven at night.  The wild running, the noisy fireworks, the walk home in the dark, it's just the sort of thing I know will make a lasting memory.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Small Improvements

 (Mandatory cute baby picture.)

Okay, so today's topic: home projects.  I love pinterest, or design blogs, or home magazines, but ultimately find them to be too... demanding of perfection?  I mean, here we are, a big family in a small house that is old, and a we really live here.  I mean, day in, day out, this house is full of children and friends and food and dirty footprints and creative play and babies and then adults.  Someone is always here, living in this house, and it is busy and messy.   There are crumbs on my dining room floor, except for immediately after I sweep them (which I do daily, thank you very much), but then there will be a snack in approximately an hour and there will be crumbs again.  No perfection here.  And you know what?  I really believe that at the end of the day, no one cares how perfect my home is.  Hopefully, they will remember how warm, or hospitable, or comfortable it was.  That should be my aim.

But back to my situation: we are a big family (with many small children) in a small house.  And I've learned that this is a wonderful thing, but also something that has certain tricks of the trade, which I am trying to quickly learn.  I have absolutely no perfect pinterest pictures to share, but I do have a couple of small improvements we've made which has made life go much more smoothly.

(Lily makes sure to supply a fresh bouquet of flowers every day)
I pulled out our changing table to loan to a friend who is due in November.  Of course it lingered in our living room for a day or two, during which time I realized that it is actually awesome to have a changing table in our living room!  (There's a glimpse into whatever the big girls happen to be doing Paper dolls?  I don't remember.  Yes, Lily is sitting on the table).  I can change a baby's diaper while keeping an eye on whatever the big kids are doing (and keeping the babies out of reach of a certain overly affectionate toddler), and everything is in one place.  So, I'm thinking we might let it hang around for the rest of the summer and put it to good use.  Besides, we can store a few books and a basket of Hugo toys close to ground level.  
Speaking of keeping things on ground level, a few months back (I believe it was when I was pregnant with twins) Ben suggested that we move the majority of day to day plates down to kid-level, where any of the children could grab a plate and set the table.  It seemed like a risky maneuver, but we went with it, and I am happy to report that I am quite pleased with the set up!  The older children are responsible for preparing their own breakfast and setting the table for dinner, and in a pinch, I can ask one of the older children to set the table for a snack.  The major win is that Zosia and Lily can now independently unload the dishwasher, which has become one of their central chores.  They leave the "hard items," things like large pots or sharp knives, but do all of the rest on their own, and truly save me a great deal of time (and gain some satisfaction in the process).
Whenever possible, I have been line drying our laundry.  I just can't bear to run the dryer when it's blazing hot outside!  I realized early on that it would be nice to have a small rack inside on which to dry our unmentionables.  It proved handy, and was also a spot to dry other often-wet things like dish towels.  As soon as the pool opened, I started finding a big pile of wet bathing suits and towels by the front door.  Every day, this pile would appear, and I would often drape our deck with wet towels, or worse, they would just stay damp until we needed them.  So, in a moment of genius, I put our drying rack by the front door.  Each child can now hang up his or her towel and suit wen they come in, and they are dry by the next time we have to use them.  It's been a huge win, and then when we need to get ready to go to the pool, we can just grab a bathing suit and a towel.  Perhaps not the most attractive living room decor, but for the sake of pragmatism, I am willing to put up with a little clutter.  And don't worry, I will move it away from the entryway when I am drying the unmentionables.  I promise.
(Mandatory cute daddy and baby picture.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On a Summer Evening

Last night we found ourselves at a string band concert with friends.  It made me so happy to be out in the fresh air with beautiful music (like an authentic version of Wagon Wheel, pre country music days, does anyone know what I'm talking about?  Something like this, minus the incredibly awesome and sexy hoola hooping, unfortunately), on a picnic blanket with take out Peruvian chicken, surrounded by a lot of sun visors, and some of the radest lawn chairs I have ever seen.  The children ran around all night making discoveries and dancing like no one was looking, and the babies just hung out looking cute and almost crawling everywhere, because that is what they do best.  I think I have about a week of immobility left, and then it's baby proofing time.  Yikes!

We have been taking advantage of the long days, letting the kids stay up a little late to catch fireflies, and generally saying yes to spontaneity as much as possible, whether it's catching gelato with friends, or going for an evening swim.  It has been wonderful and full and makes for some incredibly exhausted collapses into bed at the end of the day.  That's what summer is all about, isn't it?

I hope that summer has brought you equally delightful adventures!  And while I mean to check in here a little more often than the once a week I've been managing,  you can find me on the day to day over here!