Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The World's Best

Whenever I am looking online for a recipe, I always preface my search with "the world's best."  Beef soup?  "The world's best beef soup."  Apple crisp?  "The world's best apple crisp."  I would say that about half the time when I'm cooking, I fly by the seat of my pants, trying to remember any tricks I might have learned along the way, a quarter of the time I use a tried and true recipe from an old fashioned cookbook, and a quarter of the time I go ahead and make the world's best.  I mean, if it's available as an option, why not, right?

And even though this is probably one of the more ridiculous things that I do (and will occasionally land you on some dodgy website leaving you to wonder why, exactly this is the world's best?  I mean, what governing body actually chose this recipe?  How does the internet work, anyway??), it has yielded astonishingly good results!  This is how I have found both my pulled pork recipe, and my chocolate chip cookie recipe, both of which, I venture to say, are actually the world's best.  I would say they're my signature dishes, actually!

So yesterday when I wanted to try something new when roasting a chicken (which I do practically every week on auto pilot, yielding tasty results), I utilized my tried and true internet trick and.............drumroll was pretty awesome!  I was stunned to see that they ask you to roast the chicken at 450 (!) for an hour, and even more surprised by the simplicity of the recipe, but it was delicious in the end, and there was scarcely enough meat left on the bones to make a stock.  So there you go, the world's best roast chicken.

The past week or two, we have settled into a really wonderful rhythm that leaves a lot of time for reading to Hugo, time for nature walks, and even a regular laundry routine (which indubitably results in baskets of laundry all around the house, which I am embracing as a sort of ordinary beauty).  We have been wearing long sleeves and making soups and curries for dinner, and I am once again remembering that fall is my *favorite* season of all.  What a wonderful turning inward: into our homes, relationships, selves.  Happy fall, friends!

Monday, September 22, 2014


::Clara, quick to smile and embark on any new adventure (with a shiner to prove it!).
::Dorothy, taking in the world from our arms before stepping out into it.
::Quite the twin team, if you ask me (Clara on left, Dorothy on right)
::Wait, neither of these two are twins!  Oh well, they're so cute I couldn't help myself.

We have been trying to figure out just how these two twins are different from one another from the day they were born.  In the first few months there were physical differences (Clara had a redder skin tone, and some bruising around her eyes, Dorothy has a tell tale birth mark on her bum).  And early on I think I would say that Clara was more calm, and Dorothy was more interactive.  But really, at the end of the day, the babies have always been quite similar!  They are masters at tricking one of their parents (ahem... Ben... ahem), but I will admit that even I have occasionally placed them in the wrong crib by mistake, only to realize my error in the morning.  

Many of the really obvious physical differences have disappeared.  Clara and Dorothy are almost exactly the same height and weight, their hair is the same.  If I were to say how I tell them apart, it's just by looking them straight on in the eyes: their face shape is slightly different, and that's the trick.  But even beyond the physical characteristics, they are very similar to one another in general.  Their likes and dislikes are the same.  They even seem to like the same foods, which can change from day to day.  So in many ways, parenting identical twins is a walk in the park!  These days it feels like having a single baby that is just particularly difficult to carry.

But slowly, we have started to notice distinct personalities emerging.  It really is pretty magical to watch it unfold.  Dorothy is a little more cautious, holding closer to me and Ben.  She likes to take things in from our arms first, and ventures out once she feels safe.  During the first few minutes in a new place or setting, she checks in with us often.  Clara is a little more independent and bold.  She smiles quickly at new faces, and takes off right away, no assurance necessary.  But before you think you can put their personalities in a box, things switch around when Clara and Dorothy are playing just with one another!  Dorothy is the assertive one, Clara is the one often left confused with a toy snatched from her hand.  They have their own little vibe going on, and they are highly aware of one another, crawling next to one another like a set of horses pulling a wagon.

 I can just see how these girls are going to lean on one another through life, counting on one another's strengths and not really knowing what life looks like without a sister by your side.  And we are so excited to watch it all happen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Before we move forward

can I take a look back over the past couple of weeks?  There was quite a lot of wonderful stuff going on, and I didn't have the time or presence of mind to share any of it in this space. 

Our sweet Zosia turned seven, which is a really delightful age, if you ask me.  Sweet, curious, witty, clever and very fun.  She loves Harry Potter and has read through the first four books, only stopping because I wanted to make sure that the fifth book was age appropriate before I gave her the go ahead.  Ben and I have been trying to read along with her, but can't keep up!  Ah, to have hours for reading each day.  Anyway, when she was reading the first book and clearly falling in love with everything Harry Potter, I would be silly and try to get her goat her whenever she put her book down, asking, "How are the muggles?!"  At first she would sigh and try to explain that these books are not really about muggles at all, but about wizards, so she didn't know how the muggles were doing.  With time, she learned to just giggle.  Ben started in on the first book, at which point I lost not only my daughter but husband to the world of Hogwarts.  And then I realized, if you can't beat them, join them!  So we're all at various stages of reading the series, and enjoying them quite a bit, as I knew we would.  Zosia caught me reading the first book one afternoon, and just as I put it down, I caught her sly little smile.  "How are the muggles?!" she wanted to know.  Well played, my darling!

The day of Zosia's birthday we had cousins visiting, which I'm sure would have been celebration enough for everyone in the family.  We love Ben's brother's family, and it's always a treat to spend time with them.  But just because it's nice to have an excuse to get together with friends, we met up at a favorite park for cupcakes and nature exploration.  It was drizzling, which of course worried us adults as we were heading out the door, but in the end I don't think I fielded a single complaint from any of the kids.  Drizzling rain?  It's like the ultimate party favor.  A couple of umbrellas and a change of clothing did the trick.  Children are so wonderfully resilient.

My dad, one of the most active seniors I know (and I think he would frown at my use of the word "senior"), had a birthday, which we celebrated with frozen custard.  Northern Virginia friends, I think I might have found a competitor to our beloved Frozen Dairy Bar.  You have to check out Nielsen's!  It's really good!  

And while I'm taking care of family housekeeping, my beloved mother in law, known as Omi to us all (above with Zosia in the lavendar), just had hip replacement surgery yesterday.  She is doing well, but I know would appreciate prayers for a quick recovery!

Okay, I think that catches me up!  Onwards and upwards, my friends!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Days, Birthdays, and New Things

We have had a full few weeks, as I imagine many of you have.  A couple of birthdays (happy birthday, Zosia, Dad, and Irene!), a couple of visits from family, one pulled tooth, several school preparations, one school blessing, and one first day of school, along with a stomach bug (no thank you!) and a case of the sniffles thrown in for good measure.  As much as I like to think of myself as the laid back sort of individual who effortlessly adapts to changes and transitions, I am a creature of habit.  I love the book The Hobbit, not for the cliffhanging adventures that define the tale, but for the placid domestic scenes at the beginning and end.  A cup of tea and a hobbit hole sound about right to me.  So it's really only now, after the dust of all of these new things has settled, that I can look around, take a deep breath, and start to see that I am surrounded by many wonderful things.

We are getting used to our new rhythm.  Purposeful mornings spent preparing for our days ahead, some focused time with Hugo while the babies nap, and then a big chunk of time to embark upon some little adventure, or just relax and pinch baby thighs.  Afternoon snacks and homework time, dinner preparations, and some very treasured time with the big girls after the littlest three are asleep.

The girls adore school, which is wonderful, and we love hearing all about it.  The transition has been seemingly effortless for both for them, and they delight in their new friends, new teachers, new lessons.

Hugo has celebrated the beginning of a year spent at home by potty training and very happily assuming the role of occasional only child.  He will wake up and ask if maybe he could have breakfast in bed?  Or maybe we could make play dough, or muffins, or whatever else his little heart desires.  I say yes to every thing within reason, because a little boy is only three for so long.

The babies have celebrated the beginning of school by growing three (Clara) or four (Dorothy) new teeth apiece overnight.  They are eager to connect and communicate.  Clara eagerly signs and says "All done!" at the end of a meal, while Dorothy is more likely to sign "more" while saying "Mamamama!"  Clara's favorite catch phrase is "I did it!" which she screams while smiling.  I am certain she has no idea what it means, but until she does, I suggest we all keep her away from a courtroom.  Dorothy, on the other hand, prefers to stick to "Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!" which she says with equal conviction.  They eat what seems like a huge amount of food, possibly because they have good appetites, and possibly because there are two of them!  A typical meal might be yogurt mixed with mashed banana and oatmeal, a cup of cheerios, a diced peach, and some cubes of cheese.  They would be quite happy to just finger feed themselves in entirety, but we feed them the messy stuff.

I have started to see that as my children start to go out to have their own adventures outside of the house, my job as a mother is increasingly centered around making our home a place of rest for them.  My hours with them may be more limited, but I hope that they will be filled with enough love, warmth, and nurturing energy to sustain them when they are away.  I am hoping that over the coming weeks I will come to see what this looks like, and how I can do it better.

The girls' school year started with a beautiful school blessing: an evening to meet teachers and classmates, and spend a moment reflecting on the coming year through prayer and words.  This prayer for parents from that blessing has been cut out of the program and placed on our refrigerator, because I hope to recite it often. I thought you might enjoy it, too.

Prayer for the Parents

Heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of our children.  We pray that we can be strengthened by you to love them with the love of Christ, who tenderly received them and gladly welcomed their presence.  Give us light and grace to so nurture and challenge them that they may love whatsoever is true and pure and beautiful and of good report.  Remove from our homes every root of bitterness, seed of despair, habit of hurry and pride of life.  Make our homes sanctuaries of peace, rest, love and joy.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.