Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Days

Is it just me, or has it been a particularly at-home sort of winter?  Together at home, reading through favorite children's books, making tea parties, real and imagined, climbing stairs and tables (with passion! Those babies!), making popcorn just about every afternoon, and playing.  Playing house and animal rescuers, and hide and go seek, and pulling out blocks only to build them up and immediately knock them down.  I feel like we have colonized corners of the house that have never really seen life, making them into forts and reading corners and hideaways, trying to master the art of spending time together and also independently which makes having many people in a small house doable.

When we start to get stir crazy, which we inevitably do, we try to be creative about finding places to go, whether inside our out.  The library, or store, or a friend's house, or grandma's house, or the pool at the rec center, or even Ikea make wonderful indoor destinations for a change of scenery and a little more space.  When the air is warm, we try to go outside, which makes everyone happy.  

We woke up this morning to a blanket of snow.  A simple thing, and yet it never ceases to fill me with wonder.  Those moments, when the snow is still falling and the ground perfectly white, those are pure beauty.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Parenting Books, Pretzels, and Dreaming of Spring

Happy Valentine's Day!  Oh wait, that was totally last week, then there was Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday yesterday.  Whew, I'm just getting caught up around here!  Well, I just don't think any of those things would count without a picture of the garland on the door, some tasty short ribs for Fat Tuesday, and our traditional pretzels for Ash Wednesday.  So there you have it.

The other day I started getting emails in the afternoon that various books had been purchased onto Ben's kindle.  I was scrolling through the titles and couldn't, for the life of me, remember buying a single one of them.  There was: 

"What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions" 
"The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children"
"The Defiant Child: A Parent's Guide to Oppositional Defiant Disorder"

The list went on.  In total, over one hundred dollars of these parenting books had been ordered.  Curious more than anything, I gave Ben a call at work and asked if he had been doing some thinking about parenting, perhaps?  Was one of the children feeling particularly challenging?  No and no, and he hadn't been purchasing books.  "You should ask the kids about it," was his advice, and before I even uttered a single word, his suggestion triggered the memory: Hugo, out of the corner of my eye, darting to his room with something tucked under his arm.  I had thought it was a toy or book, but suddenly I knew.

So, quite ironically, it turns out that our three year old son stole our kindle and inadvertently purchased hundreds of dollars of parenting books about naughty children.  It's almost enough to make me a believer in karma.  Luckily, you can return kindle purchases for seven days.  Phew!

But before I discount the value of parenting books, can I tell you about one that I've been reading and absolutely love?  It's this book, entitled Parenting With Grace, and was recommended as a great book about Catholic parenting.  And can I tell you that these authors somehow manage to put into words exactly what I've thought and felt and tried to live out in my own home with utmost eloquence?  Their words and ideas are inspiring and manage to beautifully link good, attachment based parenting with Catholic theology, and I just love it.  And come to think of it, my recent purchase of this book onto Ben's kindle quite likely led to the chain of events (kindle recommending other parenting books, Hugo accidentally clicking on them as he explored the kindle) I have just described.  Parenting in the age of technology.  Sheesh!

And with that I'm off to get under many blankets and read something, preferably not a parenting book.  School has already been cancelled tomorrow because it is just too cold.  I know, I know, we Virginians are softies.  All it takes is for the thermometer to drop below zero for us to hide away in our warm homes and dream of spring, which is exactly what I will be doing tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February Gratitudes

It has been one of those days that leaves me feeling grateful.  For a thick blanket of snow, a morning spent at the sledding hill up the street, and a big lunch of pancakes, bacon, and blueberry syrup when we got home.  For health (after a week of sickness), medicine, a friend visiting who is like family (framily?), and real honest to goodness family around us who we can drop in on like it's no big deal.  For a night playing telephone pictionary, drinking mulled wine, and watching my new favorite cooking inspiration (I am obsessed!).  For a boy who lives in his imagination, a girl who carves out her pockets of quiet in a bustling household, another girl who finds joy in every little thing, and those two little babies who like to talk to me in sign language about nursing while they are nursing and also sometimes bite each other (I'm looking at you, Dorothy).  For a partner who is best friend and confidante.  All of these things almost make me forget it is cold and is about to get even colder.  Yikes, February, you are sort of brutal, but I guess I like you anyway.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Leftover Pot Pie and Twins in the Oven (again)

I wish I could give you a recipe for a pot pie made from leftovers, but it truly is a fly by the seat of your pants sort of endeavor.  For this one, I started out with half of an onion, about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken chopped into small pieces, a cup and a half of leftover cooked green beans, and then a cup of peas and a cup of corn.  The only thing these ingredients had in common was that they were in the refrigerator, needed to be eaten, and seemed like they might taste good together.  Invention is born of out of necessity, right?  You could use just about any combination of fresh or cooked vegetables and meat, making sure to cook the raw vegetables and meat first, and then adding cooked ingredients later.

I sauteed the onions, then added the chicken and cooked it until it was mostly done, added the green beans, peas, and corn, and cooked until they were warmed through.  Then I made a well in the center of the ingredients, into which I added a half a stick of butter and a quarter cup of flour (also measured loosely!).  I mixed those together with a fork until the butter was melted and the flour was slightly brown.  Then I added two cups of milk, whisked together, incorporating the meat and vegetables as I went.  About a minute later, the chicken and vegetables were in a lovely cream sauce (if I were to give you a recipe, it would be for this ratio of butter, flour, and milk to make a roux.  It works well).  I'm sure Julia child would scoff at my technique of making a roux, but this saves the step (and extra dirty dish) of using a separate pan and works for me.  I topped it with an extra pie crust I had in the fridge, baked for about thirty minutes along with some cupcakes Zosia had made, and the plates and pie dish were literally licked clean by the end of the meal.  I have come to value "recipes" like these that can be amended and altered based on what's on hand!

And if you didn't get your fill of naughty babies climbing into ovens last week, our saga continued into the week!  The twins were very excited to play with the play kitchen that Ben made years ago for Christmas, pulled up from the basement for their enjoyment.  They spent the better part of the week sorting the play food and putting toys in the sink area. Then, on Saturday, we walked into this:

I do believe this was a brilliantly planned example of twin teamwork.  Clara climbed in, Dorothy closed the door, and voila!  I must have walked by them a couple of times before Ben pointed out that Clara was in the play kitchen.  I'm sure the fact that she was lavished with attention from all of her siblings didn't further our cause of trying to get her out, but oh my goodness, it was so cute.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Around the Fire, In the Oven, and Eight New Teeth

I am generally insisting that twins are not nearly twice as hard as having one baby.  Maybe they're akin to having one tricky baby, but twice?  No way.  Well, this past week I learned that having two teething twins is definitely twice as hard.  More than twice as hard, because there's no way you can hold two miserable babies constantly, or sooth them the way you want to.  Whew, that was quite a week.  To say I was relieved to wake up to two cheery twins with a grand total of eight two year molars between the two of them yesterday morning (no wonder they were grumpy!  That's a lot of work!) is an understatement.  I was jubilant!

Last week in the midst of "the teething week" I would get pretty out of ideas by the end of the afternoon, and found that starting a fire in the fireplace worked wonders to calm the big kids, the babies, and myself.  Of course it meant that I had to sit down from whatever I was doing, but generally that was exactly what I needed to do.  We read a lot of books.  The babies have grown to love books, and they are in the right house for that particular hobby, with two parents and three older siblings who share their interest.

Dinners have been quick, simple, and generally separated into elements.  Grilled salmon, a loaf of buttered bread, and steamed green beans.  Chicken, broccoli, and rice.  Whenever I cook like this out of necessity, I am reminded that simple food is delicious, and the children love it.

Going into the weekend, I was feeling burned out  Where sometimes my instinct, as an introvert, is to use a moment like this to retreat and spend time entirely by myself, instead I spent the weekend intentionally seeking out opportunities to be with each of the three older kids.  A trip to a friend's house, a morning running errands, a coffee date, going swimming at the rec center.  Nothing exceptional, but I made a point of being present and connected with each of them, which is something that can fall by the wayside when I'm really busy with the babies.  It was one of my favorite weekends in recent memory, and it reminded me that quality one on one time is something that renews and energizes me.

And with that, I am off to do some Valentine's Day work!  Just a week and a half away, and I have a lot of pom poms to make.