A rite of passage for girls

I know that at some point in toddlerhood most girls will become very curious as to how momma gets her hair so cute and short. I have purposely never chopped my own hair in front of my children because they know where the scissors are and I’ve never wanted their curiosity to find them looking like Joe Dirt or some emo kid from a local area band. But alas my daughter of three years found our scissors and allowed her curiosity to get the best of her…. so did her brother!

Matt and I were working on the house on a variety of indoor projects when our housemate came upstairs and looked in the living room. He was wondering, “Why is all this doll hair strewn on the floor?” only to find brother and sister hiding under the desk with scissors in hand and girl left with ugly mullet. (I didn’t take a photo of it just because I was so upset)

I never had thought of myself as a mother who would think of her daughter’s long hair as her ‘crown and glory’. I really didn’t see her loss of hair as a loss of her femininity but it was gorgeous hair. Long, naturally curly and naturally highlighted by the sun. It’s the type of hair that women in the mid thirties dream of. She was born with a full head of fuzzy, black hair and by the time she was a year old she had a short bob. The day it was chopped her locks fell to the middle of her back. I was always proud of the fact that she wasn’t a bald baby with sparse scraps of tresses framing a chubby profile. Then in one moment, it was all gone.

My friend Jen came over to fix her quaff and because of who my daughter is (totally upbeat and joyful) she enjoyed the entire process of a pro hair cut. She kept saying, “I look like mamma now” and giggling as she watched her hair cut in the mirror. The cutting didn’t phase her a bit (like it did me).

She’s officially a little girl who took a whirl at cutting her own hair. Clumps of it! Her brother helped, not realizing that it wouldn’t be growing back later that day. Of course he didn’t cut his. Boys whose hair will be fine even if you have to shave it never seem to care much about trying out their styling skills on themselves. Why is that? WHY???

No matter what, she is still gorgeous and her short hair is cute. It looks like flapper hair. She’s my little lady and I love her to bits.

Earlier that morning

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Numbers and concepts

My son is a handful. Anyone who knows him knows that. He’s a brilliant and jubilant little man and while I am simultaneously concerned for his future (will juvenile detention be involved?) I am also pretty sure he’s going to go very far and succeed at whatever he does. That is if he makes it to 6! He has energy to burn but he is also in need of constant mind and body stimulation. If it’s not running and yelling he must be working at building something intricate or working out a puzzle or learning phonics.

I’ve tried to teach him some simple math concepts without cracking open the math curriculum I bought in the fall. Something tells me he isnt’ ready for the curriculum. He’s only just five and doesn’t have the patience to sit through more than a few lessons of one topic. I am like any mother though and I have concerns that he is behind or wonder if he’s learning enough. I’m pretty convinced that he isn’t being challenged enough for his intelligence level. There are a lot of things I just don’t know how to do with him to get him stimulated. He loves to build and invent so I’ll try to give him a bunch of random bits and bobs lying around the house and ask him to make something out of them. Some days he’s into that, some days he whines about everything.

He is also unusually talented at figuring out mazes. I bought him a book of mazes for an older age level and he worked out the entire book in a day. Well, there goes a few weeks worth of ‘something to do’. Then a friend downloaded some adult mazes and he worked out most of them as well. Some were too tough for him but I was shocked at how fast he could just look at them and work it out. He’s not counting spilled out toothpicks on the ground by just taking a glance at them, for those of you who are wondering. “82,82, 82. There’s 246 in the box! That’s nice, Raymond”

I was able to get him interested in working on counting by giving him some dot to dot work sheets. I realized they are more of a challenge to him and much more interesting than counting the days on the calendar or staring at numbers and counting them. Even counting beans puts him to sleep.

This home schooling thing is really challenging for me because his learning style is so very different from mine and I’m usually frustrated by how much work you have to put into doing this with your kids. I’m going to be honest and say that it isn’t always fun for me like it seems to be for some mothers. I am naturally a teacher but get me in front of university age students and I’ll come alive. Put me in with little children and I lock up. I’ve always been that way. That’s why I was a preschool teacher’s assistant and NOT the head teacher.

We’re working things out and some days I do absolutely nothing with them. Not because we are doing other things like going outside or baking together, but because I just can’t force myself to do it. I get very emotionally exhausted and just give up for the day. I have fears that I’m not going to be able to go the distance with schooling my kids; fail! I told myself ‘one year at a time’ and that’s where I’m at right now. He’s not even ‘school age’ technically so I should not worry too much about it (that’s what friends keep telling me anyway). But I’m a perfectionist and I think way too much so this is not easy to let go and relax with. I can also see that I need to work with my son very intentionally on a daily basis because of his need to be stimulated. I’m tired and cranky right now and I’m hoping that these small victories will bring life into what I’m attempting to do in my home.

I would love to hear your failures. Not to make me feel better but to know that you’ve failed in some ways with home schooling, you’re still doing it and it’s been a high route to travel with your kids…. and also to know that your children haven’t wound up in juvie due to your high stress levels.

Why I line dry….even in the winter

Not only am I a bit anal about water usage (after going to many nations where water is a precious resource and some people only have about a toilet flush worth of water a day to do everything-cook, wash, bathe…) but I am also very aware of energy usage in general. When my garden begins to grow I actually keep a bucket outside of my back door and fill it daily with gray water and water my veggies with it. I almost never used the hose on any of my 9 squash plants this past summer. I watered the rest of the veggies though.

I line dry all summer and absolutely love it. It doesn’t give that Spring fresh smell that commercials make you believe it would. Outdoor drying actually leaves clothes a bit crunchy and smelling like nothing at all. It does take a bit of time to do it but I’m convinced it’s worth it. Our energy bill is much less than it could be but I also like the idea of standing out in the sun and wind, getting fresh air and not having to rely on so many appliances to help my life.

All that to say a few years ago I decide to ‘line dry’ through the winter as well. I was always sad when the cold weather came and ruined my outdoor clothing adventure. So I bought two fold up, according style wood rack-dyers and set them up in my basement. I rarely use my dryer anymore. I think the challenge for me came when we were in my husband’s hometown in Switzerland and our well to do relatives were ‘line drying’ indoors and said that most Swiss people own a dryer but rarely use it. Growing up as an American I was under the impression that only poor people hung clothes up to dry. That’s what we had to do growing up whenever our dryer broke. Who does it out of choice?

I have to say that I absolutely love hanging clothes and the main reason is that it makes me feel powerful and self sufficent, not being reliant on machines to do everything for me. Now, we likely won’t be building an indoor fire to cook all of our food in a big, black cauldron over an open hearth but these small steps really bring a lot of life into our home.

Someone once said that most Americans are getting less and less active as they rely more and more on machines (mainly cars) and you could greatly improve your quality of life by just making life a little harder. Interesting paradox but I get the sentiment behind the statement. Just work a little harden doing things that are now easy for us and you usually appreciate things more, you get a bit more exercise and maybe even breathe easier as you get outdoors more. This is also why we try to cycle 6 months out of the year with the kids in tow to get the sun on our skin and the exhaust fumes out of the air.

Happy Drying!

More fun to eat

So I have been doing a lot of baking and cooking now that the weather is keeping me inside. I started sprouting again just to see some life growing in our house while I’m waiting for gardening season. Bread and granola, along with black beans, are staples in our house and this time I made a trough full of granola. Here’s an easy recipe:

3 c rolled oats

cinnamon

dash of salt

1/2 c pumpkin raw seeds

1/2 c chopped raw walnuts

1/2 c raw flax seeds

1/2 c raw sunflower seeds

1/4 c melted butter or melted coconut oil

1/2 c honey

1. Mix all ingredients together and cook at 325 for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally

2. After granola has cooled add 1/4 c dried cranberries, raisins or dates and 1/4 chopped apricots. I usually add about 1/2 c fresh, uncooked oats just to give it a muesli texture

My kids love this with homemade yogurt and a bit ‘o honey


Fresh Loaf

There are a few amazing bread blogs that I have found over the years that have inspired me in my quest for fresh, artisian bread. I first started making bread about five years ago but the standard recipes left me fairly disappointed. I wanted more out of bread than an average sandwich loaf that was a bit dry and bland. I read The Bread Bible and found one recipe that I just loved and since then have tweaked it to make a healthier, whole grain version that our family LOVES! You can give it a try:

Ingredients:

For the Sponge (I’ll explain later)

1/4 c. whole wheat flour- best quality. I use Hodgson Mills

1 c. bread flour

1/4+1/8 t. instant yeast

1 1/3 c warm water

2 T. molasses

* a “Sponge” is when you whisk  the above ingredients together, turing it into a pancake like consistency then you mix another batch of dry ingredients in a separate bowl and then pour the dry over the wet, covering the wet ingredients. It’s best to let it sit overnight in a cool place. Otherwise let it sit at least an hour to ferment.

Dry ingredients:

3/4 c bread flour

3/4 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t instant yeast

* mix all dry ingredients together and sprinkle on top of the Sponge, covering it completely. Now let all ingredients stand, in a covered bowl, overnight in a cool place or for at least an hour to ferment and bubble.

1. Mix all ingredients togethther to make a ‘rough dough’. That just means mix with a wooden spoon but you’re not kneading or mixing all the way yet. Now pour just over 1 t salt on top and let sit, covered, for about 20 min. You aren’t really suppose to add salt to direct yeast b/c it sort of kills the yeast.

2. Now either put in a kitchen aid mixer for about 6 min on low-med speed or hand knead on a floured surface for about 5-7 min. Put back into a greased bowl and let rise in a warm place (I turn the oven on up to about 80F then turn it off and let the bread rise in the warm oven- the winter is so cold here) for 1.5 hours.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and push down to get some bubbles out. Fold up and return to bowl. Cover and let rise for another hour.

4. Turn out again onto a floured surface, press down gently (you’re not getting all the bubbles out this time). Fold over and return to bowl. Let rise another hour.

5. Turn out AGAIN (this process ferments the bread and the long rise time gives better flavor and more air bubbles. This time either put the bread in a greased loaf pan or flour a napkin that sits inside of a narrow bowl and put the ball of dough inside to rise. This shape will give it more of an artisian look but it all tastes the same to me. Cover either method with a towel to let rise (not in the oven this time). It needs to rise another hour but about half way through you need to start heating the oven to 490F.

6. Once your hour is up and oven is at 490F spray the top of the bread with water (I use a water bottle) and put it in the oven. If you aren’t using a loaf pan you’re going to have to invert the bread to a pan. Flour the  top of the bread to avoid sticking. I use cornmeal. Now put your pan over your bread bowl, flip upside down (invert) and put the bread and pan in the oven. Spray with water first.

7. Bake at 490F for 10 min. Then turn down to 425F and bake for 20 min.

8. Take out of loaf pan to cool. Let bread cool for at least 15 min. Trust me. If you try to slice right away it will all collapse and smoosh.

A long and chilly winter

I have been off of my site for a while for a variety of reasons. I’m having a bit of a rough spot with homeschooling (the motivation is at an all time low and the discouragement is at an all time high). Most of my free time is filled with working on our house to get it ready to sell in the Spring and I have been a bit discouraged by other small elements of life, some I may write about.

All that to say, I’d like to write again just for the sake of writing and for the fact that I am committed to it. I don’t think this blog will ever become the sort of mommy-blog that has advertisements or one which draws several thousand viewers. I write for my peace and pleasure and I’m thankful for my small group of friends who read. I do think the fact that this is not my full time job has given me an out when I get lazy or unmotivated to say anything so I do tend to ebb and flow with my commitment level.

I’m in the process of reading the Happiness Project blog and I may even get the book. It’s compelling to say the least and in terms of personal disposition, which plays a huge role in someone’s happiness level, I’d like to be a happier person. My life is fantastic and I want to agree with this on a regular basis before I get to the end of my life and say, as someone was quoted as saying, “My life was amazing. I only wish I would have realized it sooner”.

Happy Wednesday and keep smiling

Winter