Friday, July 3, 2015

Grilled Mini Sweet Peppers

One day in the grocery store, I couldn't resist buying this big bright bag of mini sweet peppers.  I had no idea what I was going to do with them-I doubted any kids but my oldest (who eats anything and everything) would eat them plain.

I decided to throw them on the grill with some chicken that evening.  

I took off the green caps, threaded them on wood skewers, brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with some course kosher salt.  I left them on till they were just slightly soft and had some pretty grill marks on their sides.

They were delicious and gone in seconds.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Tidbit of Advice

I was at a graduation party recently and met a women with four little ones all in row.  She had a tiny baby strapped to her chest and then boom, boom, boom, the kids went right up in age.  Someone introduced me as "a mom with six" and this young mom asked right away, "Oh good, you can give me advice."  I listened to her for a little and I will admit that I am becoming an old lady because in my head I'm thinking, "Just enjoy these days, they go so fast, look at how cute and small they all are!" and I know that is such general unhelpful advice that moms with little ones don't really want to hear-I know I couldn't really wrap my head around that sentiment until my oldest started high school, and then as those big milestones came quickly year after year, I "got" what all those moms of older kids were talking about.

But advice?

I will say this. Almost every time a younger mom with more than two little ones has asked me for some advice on how to manager her growing family the answer is almost always:

Stop doing so much outside the home.  

That's all.

Rushing and a tight time table does not equal happy moms or happy babies or happy toddlers. Settle in. Settle in at home with your role as mother, embrace it fully and trust that the time you give these years-if you give your children your attention, and structure and find ways to enjoy your days at home, it will all pay off.

There is time for everything!  There is time for kids to do all those fun activities as they get older, and there will be more time to explore our own interests whether it be yoga classes or tennis lessons or a master's degree and there will be time for us to be passionate about a career-there is time for it all, but if you want it to happen all at once (I understand the pressure, I really do!) you will struggle to be able to enjoy any of it.

When we feel rushed, frazzled, stressed and our little ones will feel our energy and react, they will be less enjoyable for us to enjoy.  Does that make sense?  We have eighteen or more years with each of our children in our homes, and it does get easier, and as their needs let up as they grow and become more independent, there is time to fit outside activities into their lives and our lives.

I would give myself this same advice twenty one years ago.  I have learned slowly and surely (and back then there weren't quite the abundance of distractions and classes and activities and opportunities that exist now!) that children need breathing room, quiet time at home, activities that don't involve time tables, and that mothering little ones takes a lot of time and energy and focus to be enjoyable.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Favorite-Our Family Cookbook

A couple years I took on a huge task of organizing my favorite recipes into my own cookbook. (You can read about the process here.)  I gathered our tried and true recipes, loaded them into pages using templates from Blurb, and had the book printed out.

I love this cook book and use it almost every day, and would love to make another if I get the urge. Next time,  I will not be so picky about photos-I worked too hard to find just the right photo to put in each section, and in the end, I realize it doesn't matter.  When I open it up (almost every day) to make something, seeing those little faces is all that matters.  If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times-the days fly by and kids grow so quickly!

It is a special little keepsake and useful just the same.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Housekeeping

 I have surrendered to the fact that summer is an intense time for me as a mother of six.  The phrase "lazy days of summer" makes me laugh. 

Here are things I've found that are important to make my life run smoothly in the summer during this season of my life:

Laundry-first thing in morning, I always put a load in and fold another.  If I skip a day or two it gets backed up and takes too long to catch up.  (Here is the laundry system I use.)

Master Spreadsheet-Every Sunday I have been writing (on a simple piece of notebook paper) my master schedule for the week and tape it to the fridge.  Each day I list where I have to be at what time-swim practice, or soccer practice or dentist appointments, etc., and what time older guys are working. Writing it not only cements it in my head (because it is already on calendar but I need to be reminded of it again) but it is a reference for everyone.  The three oldest have five different jobs between them, and although they keep track of their own schedules I like to know when they are going to be home. (Especially since sometimes the work shift ends at 2 a.m.!)

Cleaning/Straightening-It seems like it would make sense not to make this a priority in the summer, but I've realized I feel so much better when my house is clean and straightened.  I do NOT mean perfect-it is always far from perfect-but in the summer it can get out of hand quickly and then pretty soon it won't take me minutes but hours.  I wipe down the bathrooms every morning, vacuum at least once a week and try to keep the kitchen counters clutter free and wiped down and floors swept and mopped. 

Food-We go through food so fast right now.  I just know I will have to go to the grocery store more than once a week, sometimes more than twice, and that I have to keep the fridge and pantry organized.  I make out my menu every week and keep it really really simple.  I buy so much fruit-dozens of plums and peaches and nectarines. 

Books and Walks-These are my treats for myself.  I have stocked up on good books for the summer-some are from the library, and I bought a few from Amazon (I always buy the used copies) and others are from a little donation center that charges pennies that they give to charity (I really found great ones there, and it made my day!).  I love to have good books waiting for me.  I am also back into the swing of walking with a friend in the early early morning, something I haven't done for years and years (just because I needed the sleep more than a walk!)  I love it-I feel like I am killing two birds with one stone-great conversation and exercise.  It's so pretty and quiet in the morning too, I love that time of day.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Appreciation on Father's Day

Jeff and Isaac about 20 years ago in our little rented duplex, it was like yesterday!

I have taken my husband for granted before when it comes to being a support system for me as a mom.  

When I have been overwhelmed by new motherhood I have whined to myself,  "I do it all, I do all the work, I have to feed this baby, and get him to sleep, and all day long I am here doing the work all myself." Have you ever thought, "If they only knew?" If our husbands only knew how painful childbirth is, how draining it is being up night after night, nursing every two hours. If they only knew what it takes behind the scenes to plan this birthday party, fill out all these forms for school and co-ordinate all these little activities, to never have a planned lunch break, and have to meet demanding and sometimes draining needs of little ones day after day.  

But then he would go out of town.  And I couldn't sleep because I didn't feel protected and safe.  I couldn't hand a fussy baby off even for just 30 minutes to catch a breath in the evenings and I would remember how much just that short amount of time helps.  I would be reminded how good he was with the night time routine.  How when we had more than one or two or three, sometimes I could assuage my guilt of not spending time with each of them during busy days tending to everyone's needs because he would play games and read books and take them outside and really really be present.  

When we would have a chance to talk and he would tell me about the stresses at work I would be reminded that I wanted no part in that world, I would be filled with gratitude that the work I was doing was one hundred percent mine, was always meaningful and deep, was so much bigger than the petty ridiculous stuff he sometimes had to put up with to provide for us.  I thank my lucky stars that I haven't missed a day of my children's lives because of his willingness to provide for us, even if it has meant I sometimes eat crusts over the kitchen sink and don't get bathroom breaks.

When a teenager would have some issues, big or small, I have been so so grateful I have someone who has that child's best interest in mind,who adores them as much as I do-especially because I can get wrapped up in such an emotional perspective, (or maybe tend to overreact sometimes?) that I need and rely on that other perspective, whether it be more of a tough love approach, or a "let's take a step back" approach. When a teen has been angry with me for a decision I have made (because everyone else is allowed!) I have someone standing beside me when I am wearing down, or feeling upset about it, and I have learned that that support, that "I've got your back" support is so necessary during these years.  Sometimes I am too hard or too soft, and we balance each other.  I know this is what children need, it is what makes them whole, helps them grow, and feel stable.

I have learned to never ever take my husband for granted, to never take for granted how much these children of ours desperately need the father that he is. It takes us both to raise our family together- both of us committed to each other, committed to our children, providing for our family in different ways but in ways that meet the needs of all of us, both complimenting each other's strengths and weaknesses, both selflessly giving, giving, giving.  I could never be the mother I intend every day to be without him by my side-I could never ever do what I'm doing without him, never would I want to, I can't even imagine it.  His love and support for me as a mother is something I have learned in many years of parenting to appreciate deeply.    

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Ordinary Days

The kids have been playing chess games on the back porch at all hours of the day and evening.

I painted (it was black) my antique dresser and bought vintage knobs from Etsy.  This dresser was in the kitchen, but now is in the living room. I had to have the two bottom drawers replaced and hired a carpenter to make the new ones (he had to cut them to fit the natural warp.) The lamp is from Home Goods.

Wisdom teeth out, yuck.

My mom lent me this, loving it, although I've been falling asleep (no reflection on the book) after about five pages.  Summer days are full and tiring and when I crawl into bed too late (sometimes I miss the days of putting ALL the kids to bed and having quiet time-with teenagers those days don't exist!) I'm out like a light.

It always looks like this.

Why can't I just throw old bananas away?  It would save me 100's of calories.  But it's a good snack for the kids.  Recipe here.

I tackled all the sheets and comforters and blankets in the house.  My washer and dryer were going from sun-up to sun-down, but it's nice to check that off my list.

My mom and dad's gardens.  Always inspirational.  

Our falling apart shed, with clematis in bloom.  My hydrangeas are taking a long time to come into their own. 

I don't know which one is my favorite.
I do know that gardens are a lot of work. I love gardening, but it's an exercise in patience and surrendering control for me-there is no "catching up", there is always an area that needs work, and I just have to do what I can, when I can-definitely something I do in bursts in late spring and then burn out by mid-summer.

This is our first official week of summer (everyone is out of school) and I'm so looking forward to it all!