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!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Weekend for the Boys



When asked whether he would prefer to have a big party or go the fire station for his third birthday, Hugo's response was immediate.  Fire station.  Definitely.  To see the "wee-noo"s, which is what he has called fire trucks since before he really talked (because they go "wee-noo-wee-noo", of course :-).  Macaroni and cheese and steak for dinner as the birthday menu, followed by chocolate cake, all dreamed up by the birthday boy.  In the end, he spent nearly the whole day being doted upon by his sisters, who were so eager to give him a special birthday. After three years of parading around in mismatched girls dress up clothes, he finally received some fun boy dress up clothes, which of course the girls also love dressing up in.  A police man, a superhero, and a knight.  I do believe we're entering into the world of knights, dragons, and castles, and I'm pretty thrilled.

Ben's wish for Father's day was to have a really good sandwich for lunch and go to the pool. I love how laid back and easygoing these men in the family are!  It makes my job so easy.  So we did have what I must admit was a pretty amazing sandwich (grilled chicken, roasted peppers, cheddar cheese, bacon and mayonnaise on french bread.  Amazing) and spent the afternoon at the pool, where we have been hard at work "dunking the babies," as Zosia or Lily might put it.  Speaking of swimming babies, check this out (thanks MD!)!  I think I need to get a disposable underwater camera!

Today is hot hot hot, and it looks like there's more heat coming our way.  I'm guessing our afternoon will involve popsicles and the baby pool in the back yard, what about you?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Housekeeping


::After watching an eighteen month old baby girl swimming quite comfortably at our pool (and then basically walking up to her grandparents and saying, "Could you please teach us how you did this?") we are embarking upon teaching the babies to swim!  Skeptical?  Watch this!  So far, our practice is in the bath, and this weekend I think we might take it to the pool.  The results are promising so far: I'll share more later!

::After a bit of a homeschooling break, I have recommitted to having some school time with the big girls every day.  For now, that means some math and reading with the big girls after the littlest three are asleep.  During the day, I'm trying to fill in the gaps from what we missed this past year in the Ambleside curriculum.  This is such a great resource: I recommend all you homeschooling families out there to take a look!

::Since delivering these babies, I've been really interested in finding an optimal breastfeeding diet.  Not a diet to lose weight (the breastfeeding will take care of that!), but one that is optimally healthy for mother and child.  And you know what?  There is so little out there about this!  We spend more time thinking about the food that our cows eat than the food that our nursing mothers consume.  I remember when we were drinking raw milk it was so clear when the cows went out to pasture in the spring, because the milk literally changed color, the vitamin content was so different.  So what about the milk which is the sole nutritional source for my two babies?  It makes me think!  Here's one resource for pregnant and nursing mothers, although I'm quite certain that my nutritional demands are different now than when I was growing two human beings!  Do you have any favorite nursing nutrition resources?

::While I have twins on my mind, do any of you remember this National Geographic photo spread about twins and the story that accompanied it?  This was way before twins were on my radar, but I still vividly remembered the pictures.  I am so curious to see how our twins develop and change over time.

::I'm working on a post answering some of the most frequently asked questions about having twins!  Please feel free to leave a question in the comments if you have something to add to the conversation.

::We are preparing for a festive weekend: Hugo is turning THREE, and of course Father's Day on Sunday.  Is it wrong that it's only Thursday and I'm already thinking of the weekend?

Did you think this post was going to be about actual housekeeping?  Yikes, I have little advice to give in that regard.  Just a laundry machine that has been constantly running since first thing this morning and a growing pile of laundry to fold that's calling my name!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Butterfly


Last Sunday afternoon we were sitting around reading (Zosia), eating lunch (me and Ben), napping (the babies) and playing outside loudly (Lily and Hugo.  I believe these two know only the loud variety of play) when Zosia exclaimed, "The butterfly!  The butterfly!"  It took a moment to register that she was talking about the mason jar on our homeschooling cabinet, which contained what we believed to be a (dead) chrysalis.  We found a caterpillar in our front yard at the beginning of September, and placed it in a mason jar to observe for the afternoon.  We went to the library, came back, and there was a chrysalis.  We waited and waited and watched for weeks.  And then months.  Through my pregnancy with the twins, through Advent, Christmas, the birth of the twins, the remainder of winter, lent, Easter, the beginning of spring, and past Memorial day.  Somewhere in there I think that a few of us may have lost hope.  "Oh, that butterfly?"  My mom asked.  "I was sure he didn't make it."  I mean, I don't think I said as much to the kids, but I was eyeing the chrysalis for a dissection project in the summer.

Which brings me back to last Sunday.  "The butterfly!  The butterfly!"  The mason jar was filled with a fluttering yellow mass, large black and yellow wings, indeed an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, as we had guessed.  Zosia's eyes were filled with joyful tears, because I don't believe we have ever witnessed such beauty arise from what appeared to be an utterly hopeless situation.  Ben and I ran to gather all of the children, I ran to grab the camera, and suddenly we were pulling the top off the jar, trying to hurry, because it all just seemed so urgent, although to be perfectly honest, that guy could have been waiting in there for a day or two!  I wouldn't know, I never checked.

The butterfly bounded out of the jar.  I literally didn't get a single picture of his ascent, the way he effortlessly climbed the air up to the tall poplars over our house.  We all watched in utter silence and wonder, this butterfly beating his wings for the first time, traveling through the air just as he was created to do.  It was stunning, spectacular.  I think all week whenever we stepped outside we looked up into the branches above our house to see if maybe we could catch a yellow flash.

The babies are doing their own transformations, moving in funny little rolls and arches across the floor, the grass, wherever they're placed.  They will move ten, or even twelve feet at a time, but let me be clear, they are in no way crawling.  Dorothy will lie on her back (just as she sleeps), push her legs, and arch her back into a sort of back bend.  This helps her move three or four inches, and she will repeat it again and again, like some sort of upside down inch worm.  Clara, on the other hand, does the quickest, most active roll I could imagine.  It's as if she says, "It's time to roll!" and does it in a flash.  She sometimes seems surprised by it herself.  From tummy to back, back to tummy, repeat.  And so she will roll, side to side, all around the house, as if this were a perfectly normal mode of transportation.  One upside down inchworm, one roller.  

It has been a wonderful, temperate, cool summer, and I have been baking bread, realizing that if there is bread in the house, no one seems to go hungry.  Whenever the babies take a nap, or are contentedly playing, I ask myself two questions: "Have I fed the children?"  and "Have I eaten something and had a drink?"  Oh, and add a third: "Have I asked Hugo to use the potty?"  If the answer to these questions is affirmative, the day will go smoothly.  It seems that I cannot perform these tasks enough.  The children are active and hungry and growing, I'm still exclusively nursing twins (and hungry and thirsty!), and Hugo is basically potty trained as long as we remind him.

Let's see, what else?  The sweet potato is growing and growing, we have switched to summery deserts like ice cream, or fruit with cream and sugar.  And Hugo has decided he is a super hero, and will usually be found with a cape and goggles.  He has rounded up a few costumes as well.  His cape flying in the breeze behind him, I'm sure he feels that he, too, could take flight at any moment.