Monday, September 29, 2014

I Have Something to Offer

Yesterday I found a manilla folder in our basement.  It was labeled "Becky's Report Cards".

Growing up my mom had a roll top secretary's desk that she used for storage.  The top drawer was filled with stationary and cards for all occasions, the middle one? well I don't even remember.  The bottom drawer held 8 manilla envelopes.  One for report cards and one for photos for each of us four girls.

I hadn't remembered that I had acquired this envelope.  I assumed it was still tucked away in Minnesota.  Then again, my mom has been slowly pawning my childhood things off on me now that I've been married and moved for 7+ years, 11 if you count college.  Sorry about that closet mom!  I'll get to it someday.

I took the contents out of the envelope on a whim.  It was Sunday, Ian was home.  I stood at the kitchen counter sipping my water looking through the papers.

Phrases such as "liked by all", "positive attitude" and "natural leader" jumped out at me.  My mom even saved my Iowa basics test scores.  I was shocked to see that every single year from second to eighth grade I scored the highest in math concepts (and not so shocked that a close second was vocabulary...thanks mom!).

On Friday we received the results for Ainsley's kindergarten readiness test in her unassuming green take home folder for school.  I was taken aback.  I didn't realize they were "graded" on this 10 minute meet and greet with a teacher back in June.  But they were.

The point is not how my girl "did" (just fine). But the fact that she's being TESTED!!!! I hate it so much.

We're moving on in life.  Away from the time when it's all about play and fun and social get togethers and filling the days.  Now it's about learning, A LOT, and schedules, and homework, and apparently testing.  It's hard for me.

Then I found that folder and was reminded that it's not so different from how it used to be.  I was taking scantron tests in second grade just like Ainsley (and Louise and Felix) will.  I did fine, they will too I'm sure.

As an adult I now know that those tests don't mean as much as they feel like.  They're a guide.  They're one part of this huge big picture.

It's a picture that's gotten blurry for me.  I must have mentioned 7 times over the weekend to numerous friends and new acquaintances at parties that I'm JUST now exiting the fog our third baby had put me in, 17 months later.  It's true.  Ian has mentioned to me just as many times in an even shorter period that I've been so happy, in such a good mood.  It's shocking to us both.
I guess I'm back.

Reading those comments on my report card and the assessments from the tests reminded me that I have something to offer.  I am well liked.  I am intellectual.  I am a leader, or I can be.  I heard it again in college when I lead the transfer students on an experiential learning adventure with outward bound in northern Minnesota.  I was the voice of calm, the voice of reason.  I was the one to sacrifice for the team, the one to keep my cool when things got tough.

Now I'm a mom of three, absolutely alone for 10 hours a day.  I still can't drive on the highway, can barely drive during rush hours at all really when there are too many cars on the roads.  I get so nervous about any social gathering it's ridiculous and I worry I'm agoraphobic almost daily.  The only words I write are on here.  The only concrete thing I have to show for my full days are three (sometimes smiling) grubby kids and an unkempt house. I feel so far from who I used to be, but reading those words, seeing those numbers reminds me that I WAS her, I AM her, and perhaps I will be her again.

Thanks mom for saving those report cards.  They've been an unexpected boost.
I hope you all take a moment tonight to remember who you were, who you are.  It's been nice for me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yay Fall!!!

Fall is here.  I love it.  Tonight I told the girls I was choosing all of the books.  I was craving our favorite fall reads.  Boy did Ainsley throw a hissy fit that I wouldn't read Hansel and Gretel for the quadrillionth time, but we sure enjoyed ourselves anyways.

In fact, enjoying is mostly what we've been up to lately.

garden snack date with Louise

Felix's first selfie

Haha.  Love that I made such a sentimental statement to forward a bunch of photos of Felix crying.  It's all in the big picture I guess.
We're having fun with all things fall these days.  Painting pumpkins (and dissecting them when Felix lobs them off the table and they crack open), sewing pumpkins on (clean!) recycled meat trays, winding yarn (so much that my swift is permanently attached to the dining room table, endless entertainment for all, nature walks, impromptu park meet ups with school friends, snack picnics, mum planting, pumpkin spotting (two from our vine now!  both in our neighbor's yard of course).  It's phenomenal.
I am so excited for the weeks and months to come.  We've started talking about halloween.  Our block has a chili party that night which will make it extra fun.  I love our neighborhood so much but I think I love it the most at Halloween.  Growing up we'd trick or treat for hours to fill our orange buckets with candy, here it takes about 20 minutes.  It's the best community holiday.  It's made me fall in love with Halloween like I was a kid again.
I am enjoying my crafts.  I was a bit devastated when I realized I'd knit about 5 inches past a point where I'd dropped a whole chuck on the lace pattern for the front of Ainsley's sweater.  I bit the bullet and ripped it back tonight, swigged some wine and am back at it.  No time to mourn when fall knitting is in full swing!
This weekend is going to be crazy, hopefully very fun too.  We have three birthday parties and two fall festivals.  After a few calm weekends it feels nice to have lots of fun plans!  Though I was hoping to oblige Louise's wish to go to the mall and get an Aunt Annie's pretzel (her one birthday wish we hadn't fulfilled).  And I'm desperate for a new fun fall top.  Any suggestions?  This mama has not been in an actual store in I can't remember how long and Gap is officially depressing to me.
Yay Fall!!!

Food This Week (9/21)

I've missed my weekly food posts this past year (or two).  It's helpful to look back and remember what I was making, especially when I find myself in these occasional food slumps.

My FAVORITE menu change is from summer to fall.  I am not a great summer cook.  The things I love require a hot stove or oven and summer just does not oblige these temperature needs.  Still I enjoyed finding new marinades I liked, new salads and other sides.  I am SO ready for fall cooking.

Even with my excitement for a change in menu I'm struggling.  It is overwhelming on an almost daily basis for me to feed our family well.  I like to cook. I love food. Quality and nutrition are important to me. These things pose challenges when planning and cooking for a family  of 5.  It's not just 7 dinners a week anymore.  It' 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches (2 to pack 5 days a week), approximately 14-21 snacks.  It's gotten insane.

So as usual I'm rebooting, going with the flow.  I'm going back to the one big Costco run a month for organic meet to portion and freeze, eggs and cheese, pantry staples (think canned tomatoes and broth up the whazoo).  Then weekly (or bi or tri weekly of late) local grocery runs to get specifics for meals, fresh produce and some dairy (all hail the weekly milk delivery, WORTH EVERY PENNY.)

So, here we go.  On the menu this week..

For breakfasts::
German Apple Pancake
apple cinnamon oatmeal
cereal ( I just stocked up on malt o meal, the family is excited)
eggs ( ALWAYS eggs)

Trader Joes Os and hebrew national hot dogs (the only hot dogs in our family's eyes)
sesame bagels and cream cheese
Beef bologna or turkey sandwiches
Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese (oh my gosh, SO GOOD)
leftovers from dinner


Pumpkin Black Bean Chili (I made this with ground turkey and a side of homemade cornbread.  It'll feed us lunches for most of the week and was SO GOOD.

Greek Cod Cakes with roasted cauliflower (I owe a thanks to my neighbor susan for this recommendation, we loved them!

Baked Ziti with a parmesan cherry tomato and cucumber salad (I used cottage cheese instead of ricotta because I like it better, this too will feed us for the whole week)

Braised Chicken thighs with baked acorn squash and quinoa

Spinach, sharp cheddar and sausage frittata

Franks and Beans (a family favorite)


Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins (I made a double batch, half with raisins, half without...will definitely use raisins in them all next time they are so good)

Honey Balsamic Almonds....oh man, we'll be roasting nuts at least once a week from now on, a new favorite for sure

Snacks are probably the thing I most want to figure out.  With Ainsley taking one to school with her and Felix now totally on board with snacks all the time I feel like the three are eating ALL the time.  I don't mind having some store bought snacks in the house but it gets expensive and annoying to have to keep buying tiny boxes of crackers that last us two sittings.  I am thankful my kids love homemade snacks.  Roasted nuts, dried fruit and homemade muffins and bars are regularly in the rotation and it keeps things exciting to make new recipes every other week or so.

The girls have been requesting those delicious nuts we got at the flea market a few weeks back and Louise specifically wants cashews so I think this recipe will be next up in our nut rotation.  And then perhaps some apple spice muffins?  Or pumpkin?  Mmmm, muffins.

Yay food!

Monday, September 15, 2014


What a tremendous day.

These past three weeks have been dicey.  The start to fall most always is for me.  Lots of change, newness and uncertainty, couple that with the fact that my five year old is EXACTLY like me in the anxiety about new stuff department and you have a recipe for disaster.

But we've made it.  We're here on the other side of new and change and the view is amazing.
Ian and Ainsley are thick in their morning groove and it's going so well.  Louise is the easiest kid ever to drop off at school.  Felix has been napping all morning again.  I pay for it most afternoons but man are those 2.5 hours of complete silence in the morning glorious and worth every second of despair at 4:30pm.
Best of all?  I've figured out how to spend our after school hours.

For all the struggles of the first weeks of school those afternoons were the hardest.  I get mornings with kids, I was BORN for mornings with kids.  We're out we're about we're busy we're happy we're energetic we're fun.  We eat we then what?  In the summer we head outside to bike and walk and play, but with school Ainsley is too tired for too much romping around and I know now that to make it happily to bedtime we need a bit of downtime.

This past week we pick up Ainsley and come home to a waiting project.  Baking, crafting, something prepared and ready so all we have to do is get to it.  Today it as pumpkin muffins followed by a family video while they baked.  The girls are very into family videos these days and I happily oblige. Felix backs up onto my lap to snuggle while we watch the girls as babies and toddlers (SO fun to see them at Felix's current age, they're all so similar, yet so so different).

Then we play!  First it was a bit of left over sensory from lunchtime with Felix.  Bowl of hard black eyed peas, spoons and old coffee cans.  Then onto the pretend play.  My girls are the best players.  Today it was Heidi, packing up suitcases to run back to grandfather's (Felix's).  They ran away all the way to basement and back again.  Then I unveiled Ainsley's new quilt.  Her reaction was as good as I could imagine.  Then dinner, then baths for Felix and Louise while Ainsley READ TO ME.  She has a reading log for kindergarten and we decided for half of it to have her start reading in earnest to us.  Her favorite right now is Dick and Jane.  I think it's the best true FIRST reader.  It builds vocabulary very slowly so each new chapter has only one or two new words to learn.  I think the true first step in learning to read is building confidence, and when a brand new still needs lots of help sounding things out reader can read 26 pages on their own in one sitting, well that's as good as it gets!

SO yes, today was good, especially with my Ainsley girl.  Tomorrow I'm excited for some more fun in the afternoon with all three and a quiet morning to work on that other big girl's quilt.  She's VERY excited for her own now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Moment, or Three

There are so many things about summer that are great.  Splash pads, parks, bike riding, pools, walks, sand, sun, lemonade, grills, popsicles, ice cream, tan lines, gardens. Ok, we get the picture.  I enjoy all of these things until I don't.  When I start to crave more structure and order, cooler temperatures and one dish meals, yarn between my fingers and a sewing pedal pressed under my foot.  Ah, fall.  It's where it's at for me.

It started with the giant yarn order I made about two weeks ago.  I agonized over pattern choices for fall sweaters for the kids, settled on yarn (all super wash mom!  you'd be do proud!), it arrived and I was more excited that Christmas morning.  My fingers just can't knit fast enough.  I love the excitement of this first batch of fall knitting.

And then came that forecast for cooler temps (yay!), and oh dear, those two micro fleece blankets on the girls' beds are just not going to cut it forever.  The girls quilt still sat in pieces in the basement (I think they've been over two years in the making.  It's embarrassing and sad).  With a bit of school time now to get things done, and a baby boy who's quite happy to dance around the basement banging on rhythm sticks and table tops while I work, my sewing machine and I have been flying.  
Both of the girls tops are done.  

I was so excited and motivated that I decided to make a new top for Ian and I too.  I lucked out and got a 1/4 yard of the most beautiful cotton voile (Anna Maria Horner's Field Study line, for those interested in those things) in a scrap bag and decided to use it as a jumping off point.  Giant brick like rectangles and lots of fabric from my stash later it's all ready for sewing.  

I could say this motivation came simply from having the time to do more, and surely that is some of it.  I credit a lot of the fire under me of late to this juice fast I just finished.  I feel amazing.  It hasn't solved all of my issues, but has definitely given me more energy, rebooted my system, and cleared my head.  I have more patience, am more fun (I think!) and have found a bit of that old Becky that I've been missing of late.  I really really recommend trying it if you've been in a fog like I have been.

So now I just need to keep it up.  Keep finding the time I need to do the things that make me happy, while doing all those other things that a mom of three must do.  Keep eating well, planning well (a BIG part of eating well), and in general taking care of myself.

I hope all you mom's and dad's out there take a moment for yourselves today.  It's done me wonders this past week and I have three quilts and an equal number of happy kids to show for it.


Happy Wednesday to you all!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Labor Day and Beyond

My blogging has really just become pathetic.  I have a perfectly good post just sitting in drafts that's now completely irrelevant because it's almost a week old.  I just can't keep up!

But now I have my photos on and a moment to spare while the girls wake up slowly and Felix naps (because I forced him to at 6:20 when he woke up at 5 and screamed at me for an hour).  Mmm coffee and early morning time.

We had an awesome labor day.  It was a calm slow weekend.  Ian took the girls to the last days of the pool.  They had so much fun.  We had neighbors over on Monday morning for cinnamon rolls (I've made a LOT of cinnamon rolls, these are the easiest and the BEST).  Warm easy breakfast, lots of coffee, 6 awesome adults and 8 happy rambunctious kids is a great way to start the day (no really, it was).

Last week was good but tricky in ways.  Louise started school on Tuesday but her days were short so our mornings felt very broken up.  Louise is loving her new class (the same teacher and room Ainsley had her first year of preschool!).  I enjoyed my hour a day alone with Felix.  We mostly chatted with other parents and one day walked what felt like the entirety of north oak park.  It's going to be interesting to see how to best spend that two and half hours with my little guy.  Errands?  Exercise? Crafts? Naps?  Perhaps a bit of each throughout the week.  I'm excited for some one on one time with my little guy but goodness he still needs his naps in a day.  We'll see what happens!

Ainsley is still loving kindergarten but getting her out the door in the mornings is tough.  She is nervous about little things during the day (recess, fire drills) and lets those fears overwhelm her. We decided the best way to combat this is to switch up a few things.  Ian is walking her to school just the two of them (I'm so thankful for this!).  He's found some fun games they like to play on their way.  I'm packing a bag for my trip and I'm bringing..., and a word game where you have to say a word that starts with the last letter of the word that was just said.  It's a good distraction and they're having fun! This morning was the best yet even with a tidge of resistance so we're hopeful, and really, I'm not worried because when I pick her up she's always BOUNDING out the door bursting with excitement. She's just not good with transitions (gets that from me I'm afraid).

It really helps that she feels so grown up getting ready with Ian.  They make lunch, get dressed, brush teeth.  It's a sweet daddy daughter time.

This past weekend both Ian and Louise were sick.  There is some fevery cold ripping through our neighborhood so I'm hoping Ainsley and I hold out! (Felix was sick for a day last week so I'm hoping he's immune now!)  Despite them being sick I had an awesome weekend.  The weather was perfect and I got so much done around the house.  I love weekends like that.

I'm on day 5 of a 7 day juice "cleanse".  Basically I'm just juicing fruits and veggies and herbs for all of my meals and drinking tons of water.  I've been feeling SO tired and foggy and sluggish for so long that I decided to try and do something about it.  Juicing is an easy efficient way for me to completely rehaul my diet for a bit and hopefully shock my body into a bit of change (especially since we already have this juicer courtesy of an awesome birthday gift from my parents to Ian a few years ago).  I will say the first 3.5 days weren't the easiest. It's tough cooking yummy food for my family and not eating any of it.  At the same time it's been easier than I thought.  I guess my body must have needed this because my cravings and hunger have not been nearly as big of an issue as I thought.

And for those interested, my favorite juices so far are...

2 apples, 1 cucumber, 1 cup blueberries, 2 cups grapes, 2 kale leaves, 1" knob ginger

1 orange, 1/4 watermelon, mint

1/4 cantaloupe, 1 orange, dash of cinnamon

I cucumber, 2 apples, 2 celery stalks, big bunch of kale or spinach or chard, 1/2 a lemon, small knob of ginger

I definitely miss chewing but am thankful for the energy and simplicity it's giving me.  Three more days!!!

I kept Louise home from school today to recoup from her all day fever yesterday.  So far we've made blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes, colored stained glass, sung along to Chirstmas pandora (why not?) and are now happily resting for a bit while Felix naps (again! this is going to be an interesting day).  

This week I am excited for our normal fall routine, eating regular food on Thursday (I can taste those cod cakes I plan to make already!), and all those knitting projects on the horizon. Sweater, sweater, sweatersweaterhat, hathooded coat.

I hope you all have a great start to your week.  Happy Monday!