Monday, October 27, 2008

Autumn Days

I love this time of year. The days are bright and sunny, the air is clear and crisp. Everything looks more vibrant in the fall! I love the sights and the smells and the sound of walking through a pile of crispy leaves. I'm thankful that the rains have held off, because I just don't feel the same way about slogging through a pile of soggy leaves! Here's to the lovely days of fall...

Poppy at the Pumpkin Patch

Peregrine and Raphael

Banana Gingerbread Muffins

Even the spices used in baking show the colors of fall!

There's unexpected colors too!

Of course I have to throw some leaves in here....

The last few weeks have been a bit rough for us. Raphael, who was sleeping for 8-9 hours straight at night, has been up a lot. Through the night. And we're tired. Erik has had one sickness after another. I'm sure the lack of sleep hasn't helped. The kids are doing pretty well. In spite of it all though, there is much joy, and I know that these things are minor when I stop and think about it. It's easy to start complaining, but we have much to be thankful for. And so we choose to give thanks, to look at the beauty around us, and to trust that these trials are working something beautiful in us as well. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last night was the first night Raphael slept in the crib in Peregrine’s room. I’m always sad when the time comes to move a baby out of our room, but the time has come. None of us has been sleeping well, and with with the other kids it finally took moving them to their own space. I’d given Peregrine careful instructions that when he awoke he was to leave his room quietly and not wake his brother, but I was a little uncertain as to how it would go.
I awoke this morning and heard Peregrine stirring, heard the soft opening of his door, heard the baby cry. I heard the door close and hoped that Raphael would go back to sleep. He whimpered a bit, then stopped. I lay still and listened as it continued; he would fuss for a few seconds, then stop. Then all was quiet. I got up and looked into “the boys’ room” only to see Peregrine standing next to the crib looking down at little Raphael, who was smiling and wiggling in great excitement. I felt a little annoyed that Peregrine hadn’t obeyed me after all until he explained in a voice of wonder:
“Mom, he woke up when I climbed down from my bunk bed and he started to cry. But he’s, like, perfectly satisfied with me. Whenever I tried to leave he would cry, but if I stay here he’s so happy!”
It was the perfectly satisfied that got me. And the sound of his voice, the tone that betrayed that he had found true joy in making another person happy. I sleepily put my arm around him and said “You really love your brother, don’t you?”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Peregrine, on Politics

As we were driving this morning Peregrine and I discussed the upcoming election. I explained to him in simple terms that there were two men, John McCain and Barack Obama, and that people would choose which one would be our next president. The conversation that followed went something like this.
“I think we should vote for Daddy! He’d be the best president ever!”
“Yes, Daddy would be a good president.”
“Yes! And then we could live in the White House!”
“Do you think Daddy would be a good president, Peregrine, because he’s wise?”
“Yes! He’s the wisest man I’ve ever known!“
”I think he’d be a good president too, but this time it’s either going to be Barack Obama or John McCain.“
”I’d vote for John McCain, because I like his name better.“
”Well, that’s not really a good reason to vote for a man. We need to learn about them and vote for the one we think would be the best leader of our country.“
”Hmmmm. Does John McCain love the Lord more than anything?“
”Well, I don’t know. Both McCain and Obama say they love the Lord, but really only He knows their hearts. We can only look at their actions and try to pick the one we think is the most godly and would make the best decisions for our country.“
”That’s a good point Mom.“

I loved that he quickly realized the most important criteria was whether a person loves the Lord more than anything. I wish it were that simple to discern the heart of a man! It would be even simpler if we could just vote for the man with the name we like the best! (I’d vote Obama, hands down, in this case!)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our Daily Bread-Doh

Poppy's Cinnamon-Raisin Snail

This wasn't the final shaping, but Peregrine was very excited to have spelled MOM with his dough!

For as much as I enjoy being crafty, I've never done a lot of crafts with my kids. I'm just not a fan of spending time and money to make junky things that I then feel guilty about sneaking into the trash at some later date. I feel like a rotten mom just writing that, but there it is... the truth. My kids, however, have no aversion to "junk crafts" and would love it if we'd do more of them. And play dough? Mess, mess, mess. I hate the little pieces that inevitably end up all over the place. I hate the way it gets squished and ground into everything, and I detest the smell of store-bought Play-doh. Not to mention the way it's spelled. (I grew up with a "good mom" who made play dough for us and it didn't stink. I'm sure she hated the mess too, but that didn't stop her.) So, about 80% of the time when my kids ask if we can get Play-doh out I say "No, not today." (Can you believe that The Spell Check Gurus aren't at all bothered by that word, doh? But if I try to spell Playmobil they freak out?)
About once a week we bake bread. It's healthy and hearty and wholesome, and the dough is wonderfully squishy and stretchy and resilient. Most of the time we don't encourage playing with food at the table, but on bread baking day I'm all about it. The kids each get a nice lump of dough to shape and re-shape and stick raisins in to their heart's content. This probably keeps them happy for close to an hour. And when it's done, when they've finally decided on what sort of wonders to make, we put it on a pan, cover it with a towel, and let the little yeasties do their thing. Our wonderful dough doubles in size; when we bake it it doesn't become hard and brittle. Rather, it becomes soft and golden and fragrant. And delicious. Now that's my kind of Play-Dough. 
Here's a recipe for the bread we make. It's Whole Wheat but you'd never guess it. It's so soft and light and still tastes great several days after it's been baked. This recipe makes two loaves, or one loaf and all sorts of smaller wonders. The original recipe is here, and this is scaled down and slightly modified, the way we make it. I usually use freshly ground hard white wheat berries or whole wheat pastry flour, but you could use regular whole wheat. 

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/2 T Yeast
2 C Warm Water
2 C Whole Wheat Flour 
Mix together in a bowl and let sit until double- about 20-30 minutes.

1/4 C Oil
1/3 C Honey
1 1/2 t. Salt
1/4 C. Gluten Flour
1/4-1/2 C. Ground Flax Seed (optional)
3 C Whole Wheat Flour
If using a mixer knead with a dough hook. If the dough is too sticky after about two or three minutes then add little more flour until it's the right consistency. Knead for a few more minutes until dough is smooth and stretchy. If kneading by hand, go to the original recipe and follow her directions. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until the dough has doubled, about an hour. Punch down and shape into loaves (or snails, whales, snakes, cinnamon rolls, cars, birds, etc.) Let rise another 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes for a large loaf or less for smaller shapes. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Going Green

It's all the buzz these days: Do your part in caring for the earth and Go Green. Even Raphael has jumped on board. Being the independent thinker he is, though, he's not merely choosing cloth diapers over disposables and drinking hormone free milk from his free range mama. No, this little guy is serious about going green. Here you can see him thoroughly enjoying one of his first foods, avocado. (Organic, of course.)

It's with a twinge of sadness on my part that Raphael is beginning to eat solid food. With the other two,  it was a milestone I looked forward to more, but I've so enjoyed the simplicity of nursing this little one, and the connectedness we share. This time around I feel more keenly that this is a first step toward independence, and I know how quickly they grow. There is something so sweet about being his only source of nourishment; every ounce of him so far has grown and been sustained through his physical connection to me. Now, he begins to separate himself, to move slowly toward the independence that must come. It's only right, and it's good, but the baby days go so quickly by, and I shall cherish the memories. There's no looking back, after all. This is the period, from six months to a year, that I so enjoyed with Peregrine and Alethea; it seemed there were new discoveries every day. I'm sure I will enjoy it with Raphael as well, my little Green Boy. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Tuesday in October

  • We had a great time away last week. The first several days were spent at Semiahmoo, where Erik was attending a conference for work. Even though he had to attend meetings and workshops, it was so much nicer to be there with him than home alone with the kids, and we had plenty of time with him too. The kids enjoyed exploring the beach, finding rocks and shells, and breathing lots of fresh sea air. We also had a very nice visit with Stacy and her sweet family one day. After Erik's conference was over we headed North to Vancouver, British Columbia, where we spent the next two nights. The weather was cool and rainy, but we enjoyed walking around the city and seeing some of the sights. I was born and raised in Canada and always feel nostalgic to revisit my home country. Even though we're close neighbors, it really has its own feel, and it was good to be there again. 
The kids enjoy the beach.

The view from Semiahmoo, looking across the bay into Canada.
  • Being away gave me lots of time to reflect on life, to think about what's working and what isn't, to re-evaluate priorities and think about some new ways of doing things. Reading The Paradox of Choice has been enlightening, and has challenged me to structure my days more. Being faced, daily, with all the little questions of how to best run my household, is, to me, a source of stress. If I can have a master plan, a master menu, a basic schedule to follow, a lot of those little choices, and thus stresses, could be eliminated. Like my sister Alyssa once said "Do I enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out what to make for dinner at 4PM?" Planning, and sticking to my plan, doesn't come naturally to me, but it's an area I'd like to grow in. I'd like to come up with a basic monthly menu, but I started with just this week. I've also written out a basic schedule for the last two days, and so far it's been helpful. (You can read my previous thoughts, and fears, about scheduling here.) I know it's only two days, but it's a start, right? One day at a time....
  • A few little Poppy-isms as of late: She confidently ordered "official chips please" off a menu one evening. It was the fish and chips she was going for! Another evening she enjoyed a "girl cheese sandwich." Today she found a woolly bear on our walk, and kept referring to it as a "gummy bear"!
  • We're slowly getting school underway. I'll try to write more about what we're doing this year soon. Peregrine is officially kindergarten age this year, so it's our first "real" year of homeschool and so far we're enjoying it.
  • Raphael is six months. Half a year. Precious. And can hardly wait to go fishing with Daddy.
  • I've long wanted to start keeping a nature journal and make it a family project. Drawing, however, is not one of my skills. But I know it's something I can learn along with the kids, so I've been doing some drawing with Peregrine, following the instructions in his Draw Write Now books. It's actually fun, and has boosted my confidence enough to pull out an old blank notebook and make my very first, of hopefully many, entries! It's a very humble beginning, but a beginning it is. 
First entry in the Nature Journal: the Woolly Bear.
Next up: a pin oak leaf and acorn gathered on our walks, and maybe this spider and her supper of wasp.