I know I have been absent from this virtual realm for a while…we have been busy playing in the snow and celebrating the holiday season. I have some new family profiles to share in the New Year and some updates form the farm front but for now, let’s all enjoy this winter wonderland. Cheers!
“Because rhythmical activity speaks so strongly to children, it is helpful to bring conscious gestures into our household tasks such as folding clothes, sweeping floors, and washing the windows, car or floor. The children will watch, join in or help or simply take it all in as they go about their work of playing. By becoming conscious of our own activities, by regulating our daily lives in a harmonious, rhythmical way – by valuing what we do around our children – we are shaping their will forces, and helping their physical bodies to develop in as healthy a way as possible. In return, our children give us the gift of slowing down, of becoming aware of our movements and our emotions and of appreciating the uniqueness of each moment.” You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin
I believe I have always enjoyed routine. Indeed, when I look back through my life I can see that certain problems developed when a steady rhythmical flow was disturbed. I, of course, could not see that at the time – only through a few hours of counseling and deep thought would that realization come to pass.
I have fought by love for routine since every now and again as I do love me a little spontaneity. I like when people just stop by without making a prearranged date, I like hopping in the car for a impromptu trip across town or succumbing to a sudden urge to buy tickets to South Africa (ok, a bottle of wine may have something to do with that last one). But over the past few years, after two children have made every day a bit unpredictable, I have come to realize that I only like this spontaneity in small doses. To wake up every day without a plan or a project or any inkling about how those darn kids will act or not act is enough to drive a person a little nutty. Enter the frazzled and bored stay-at-home parent that we all read about (or are).
I first starting bringing back some routine with the week’s menu – I have a chalkboard in the kitchen that acts as the week’s menu. There is Monday Pasta, Tuesday Tacos, Wednesday Meat, Thursday Rice and Friday Soup day – every Monday we have pasta, what kind of pasta differs from week to week (soba noodles with kale, smoked salmon fettuccine or a simple veggie pesto) but every Monday we all know we will be eating some sort of noodle. And so on. This makes our meals so much easier to plan on Sunday night when I write out what each day that upcoming week will provide. I find that when I have all the options in the world, I get a little bogged down by all the yummy possibilities that we end up eating breakfast for dinner because I couldn’t make up my mind. I blame Pinterest or the bevy of addicting cookbooks out there. So I just leave the weekends for the lavish meals…which means nine times out of ten I don’t have to cook them since we are often on the go all weekend.
We have also come up with a weekly routine for the kids – inspired by the Waldorf books I have been reading. Mondays are my favorite. We are home from the weekend…no school, no commitments. We usually spend the morning outside exploring around – today we were on a hunt for the items needed this week for our advent garden.
The First Light of Advent,
It is the Light of Stones,
The Light that shines in Crystals, in Seashells
And in Bones
The Second Light of Advent,
It is the Light of Plants,
Plants tat reach up to the Sun
And in the Breezes Dance
The happy children spend their days
Preparing for the holidays
They’re wrapping up presents to share
It’s Advent Time, so We Prepare
The trees and bushes of the forest
Who bend and dance with the wind
Saw (child’s name) (working hard, being kind
To another child, etc) today.
The Trees and bushes are giving these
Children gifts to put on the nature table.
You may choose a gift of a flower, seed, leaf
Or berries to put in our Advent Garden.
Then once Sebastien heads to nap, Maya and I get a few hours to play together, just the two of us. This is time I have recently come to really cherish. Today we made play doh – Maya made a lake and a salmon family out of hers. We played house, danced a few ballet performances – her and me, and made many a mud pie and soup in the outside play kitchen. Three hours later and we were eager to greet the sleepy boy and invite him into our play.
Children are so damn creative and their imagination is wild. It is a blessing to be able to spend this time with them. But it is truly through this new idea of a weekly routine that I have been able to see this.
The last 10 days of our Maui vacation was spent visiting with our friends in a small “town” called Kipahulu – forty minutes from Hana – it’s waaaay out there. It was super nice to have so much space for the kids to wander as well as some new playmates.
In our quest to find “our place” – where we would like to settle down for a while – it is essential to travel around and see all sorts of other ways of living. While Maui is not where I would like to spend all year (despite the warmth and the beauty, it just seems odd to wear flip-flops during Thanksgiving), visiting our friends in the country definitely helped me realize that I would love some space…some land. Cities are fantastic and I love to visit them, but now I know for sure that land and fresh air and room to roam is what we need. So there’s that.
Aside from the sleep depravation that is still haunting us (why does it take a toddler so long to catch up to the damn time difference!?), the days are much better – full of playing on the beach and swimming in the ocean. But it dawned on me yesterday as I was trying to read a book on the beach and my son was pouring sand on top of my head, I may need to amend my idea of vacation.
A vacation is no longer the stuff of late mornings, no work, lazy beach days full of swimming and reading more than a few sentences at a time and quiet, relaxing dinners. They are no longer a welcome break from your normal, everyday life. They are merely your life in a different locale – you still have the 3 year old climbing in your bed at 2 in the morning or the nap schedule to adhere to or the late afternoon meltdowns to sooth. While I may sound tremendously spoiled (as I type in the 85 degree goodness that surrounds me), it is a slightly disappointing realization – you simply cannot escape your exhausting quotidian routine.
Alas, the upside is that on vacation you get to do said routine (once the kids get on the right time schedule, ahem) on the slopes or on the beach or in a foreign land with strange foods and interesting scenery. You are exposing your kids to different walks of life. Shaking things up a bit. In the end it’s all merely for the benefit of the children – I am so not enjoying endless swimming in ocean and pool, eating fish and pineapples daily or that damn sweet tropical air.
It wasn’t the 6 hour flight with two children under three that did it…it was relatively mild even though I had to spend a few minutes holed up in the bathroom while my year-and-a-half year old screamed bloody murder. Who could blame him? It was his nap time and here I was trying to coerce him down in an ergo while streaming past totally interesting strangers and TV monitors at every glance. He probably thought I had gone completely nuts – come on lady, you think I am going to fall asleep among all this delicious eye candy? You, the same woman who has consistently put me down in a crib to sleep at roughly the same time for the past year, think I will now magically fall asleep in a freaking backpack? Yes, you have lost your mind and now I am going to lose mine.
So there was that. And there was the utter meltdown of two sleep-deprived souls (and no, I am not talking about me or my husband although I was close) upon arrival of our new happy home. And the 3AM wake-up call from the little guy who, again, looked at me like I was a crazy person when I tried to explain that yes, it is 6AM back home, but here it is still deemed appropriate to be ASLEEP. The kid has an internal clock like no other.
Oh and the creepy creature called the centipede who bit my foot as I tried to quietly sail past a sleeping child to throw a diaper to said awake child in the next room. And yes, is was dark and yes, I thought for sure I was dying. Centipedes are by far the nastiest little buggers you will ever lay eyes on and now I am paranoid about meeting another one. (Disclaimer, in all the many many times I have visited Maui, this was my first bite)
No, it was driving into town at 3 PM the next day to go grocery shopping and getting stuck in traffic, watching the sugar canes sway in the muggy wind and the grey swirls of smoke dance around the blue skies. It was the throngs of people rushing in and out of the stores. It was the $8 pint of milk and $5 avocados (don’t they grow them here?!). It was the 12 minutes it took to drive 2 miles on South Kihei Road.
Living in the country has ruined my sense of paradise.
But then, once you are settled – even though your youngest child is still waking up at 4 AM eager to start the day – and you look around and realize that yes, I am exhausted but I am wearing a sun dress and it is November. I went swimming this morning – at 8 AM and it was hot out. I can see the beach from our lanai (or Nana and Popa’s lanai – thank HEAVENS for vacationing with grandparents) and have eaten guri-guri every afternoon.
Ok, so maybe vacations have some upsides…
Please welcome the Koziura family to our Family Profile series – this family has recently returned from their one and a half year trip around the globe in their sailboat, Begonia. To be honest, who doesn’t fantasize about sailing around the world? But this couple did it with two kids in tow! If you would like to read more about their travels and adventures, please check out their blog.
Q: Please introduce your family and your boat.
Luckily, we had the most wonderful wedding to attend to this past weekend – it was held on a island in the Sound only accessible by private boat. The weather promised wind, rain and periods of all out nastiness but none of this could stop the fun that was had by all. We traded heels for rain boots and lace for waterproof jackets – some wore full on Grundens and some spiced in up with fancy hats and bow ties. I got away with wearing a sequined cardigan under my rain gear – I only have so many opportunities to get dressed up these days.
It is an occasion like this that begs me to stay in this area – dozens and dozens of friends from high school (and elementary and middle since we’re mentioning it) as well as old friends and new friends (Melissa! Heidi! Ellen!). It is hard to think of a better community to live near – it also reminds me of why our upbringing was so special and what I can only hope our own children get to experience. We still see a ton of friends from high school and still, gulp, love them. I promise we have branched out some but these friends are time and time again the ones we lean against and share our lives with. Through this core group we have shared stories of skipping school and climbing water towers to weddings and children. It is hard to find a group of people that will keep you company on such a long journey.
It is also through these old friends that we meet new ones – I had so much fun meeting, what I hope are, fast new friends. It is always nice to welcome in some fresh air and especially when you discover you share similar dreams, ideas and traits. Nothing can be more exhilarating that talking with someone you connect with.
Speaking of connecting, I had the opportunity to reconnect with a dear old friend whom I had felt I was drifting away from. She reminded me of our foundation, of our commitment to a friendship that will indeed have its ebbs and flows – time is sacred and while we can no longer see each other as often as we would like – those ties will always be there. Needless to say, I lot of happy tears were shed.
This reminds me of my college friends as well – we are spread out all over the world but when we get together every year, it is as if we never left the comfortable confines of our college house hallway. I now think it is entirely possible to have a best friend you only see once a year or even talk to every few months – if the foundation and love is there, the friendship will prevail all tests of time and distance. Those are the truly delightful relationships.
We have a wedding to go to next weekend so today I shuffled through the two bins where all my “nice” clothes lay packed and preserved for the rare occasion when I may need them. It has been a few months since I last laid eyes on these clothes – gorgeous dresses, velvet coats, delicate sweaters and a variety of former work wear (suits, dress pants, collared shirts). It felt a little unnerving to dig through these – I started to get an urge to be back in the city. This feeling of returning to the urban life where I may be able to wear such garments without being splattered with mud or horse poop.
But here’s the thing – last week I spent a day in the city and was so stressed and hurried about that by the time I got on that ferry to come home, I was so excited to drive down that peaceful driveway and settle back into the country life. My, how quickly a few months in the quiet depths of woods and valleys can change the way you view Ballard Avenue or lunch hour. And so many cars and people! Geez, I didn’t remember it being so crowded and rushed – everyone zooming on to something more important, more urgent. I couldn’t imagine ever living there again.
So I am experiencing this pull in opposite directions – I really enjoy being out here where the librarian knows me by name and fellow parents at my daughter’s school are eager to invite you over but that city allure – the nice clothes, the funky ensembles, the late pizza run still resonate with me. In all honesty though, I haven’t worn get-ups like that since before I had children – they are by far the worst offenses to my clothes. Sure, scooping horse poop in a red leather jacket may not be practical but it is still doable while berry picking with your children in your pale cashmere sweater and heeled boots just doesn’t seem responsible.
How does one feed their desire to have personal style and be “in-the-know” all the while magnetically pulled to farm life and raising animals? Is there a middle ground? And please don’t tell me that means moving to a suburb. Can I not wear my sequined cardigan to the Corner Farmstand? Or crazy beaded hoop earrings with red lipstick to drop off?
This reminds me of Emerson Fry – a clothing designer who lives in NYC and on a farm in New Hampshire. She is often pictured wearing such fabulous outfits such as long leather clothes while tending to the pigs. Now, I know this is for photo shoot purposes only but it makes you think…perhaps you can marry the two?
Apples are the last crop to harvest. Even with just a few trees to pick this year, we were overwhelmed with the amount of apples we had to play with. We kept a few coolers full of the unbruised ones which will be so tasty to eat throughout the next few seasons. With the rest we made over 15 gallons of cider, approximately a gazillion pints of applesauce and a dozen pints of apple butter. Rest assured, if you invite me over for dinner in the near future, you will receive some sort of apple product in return.
Even after all that, we still have buckets and buckets of apples to use up – so I think we will be donating those to Maya’s school and to Finnriver for their “backyard” brew.
Our storage shelf where all the foods that I have preserved this summer/fall sit is now completely full. Not a space left for any other substance. Not to mention the freezer! We now have rows and rows of applesauce, apple butter, green beans, pickled green beans, pickles, tomato sauce and gallons upon gallons of frozen blueberries, raspberries, apple pie filling, blackberries and strawberries. It will be so nice to have these flavors available to us throughout the winter and spring. This winter will give me some time to research additional methods of preserving and perhaps adding some new items to our list – I am eager to try making our own vinegars – balsamic and apple cider. I also just read an article about how dandelions are actually quite beneficial and we are not in short supply of those around here – how cool would it be to learn how to prepare weeds as health food?
Below is a recipe I will be making time and time again this winter…
Sooooooo…it seems as though my fellow alumnae are all over my initial letter with responses published in every magazine issue since! Not too shabby. I am working on writing a longer more in-depth article regarding the issues and am excited to hear what my fellow Smithies have to say.