Thursday, May 28, 2009

asparagus soup

The past two days have been rainy and cold. Wet, damp, cold that feels even chillier coming after some 90 degree days last week. We've been eating asparagus almost everyday since it arrived at the roadside stands and this weather seemed the perfect time to try asparagus soup. The recipe is from my current favorite Jamie at Home. I've always liked his books but I like him especially now that he is a papa and grows his own food. The book is laid out seasonally and includes a recipe for Rhubarb Bellini which I have on the menu for the next sunny weekend.

Éamonn went down for a nice long afternoon nap so Miryam and I had some time to work together in the kitchen. I did the onion chopping and she handled the asparagus - weighing out the bunch, snapping off the ends and cutting off the tips to be added later after the soup is blended. They cook perfectly in the soup and are these little surprising nibbles of yummy. I highly recommend the soup. If we get a sunny day we can try it the alternate way - cold with lemon juice - which sounds like a perfect lunch.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


the kitchen garden we have been working on during any spare moments

Parenting creates interesting paradoxes. Being a mama or papa makes you aware of your values, the vision you have for the family you want your child to grow in, who you want to be as a person, how you want to act and model to your children, and the way you want to spend your valuable time. It also takes a lot of work with few breaks which makes it difficult to get the healthy dinner on the table, keep your patience, stop washing the dishes to sing songs, and act with intention.

That last thought has come up for me a lot since Miryam was born - acting with intention. Often when I am feeling down I will scribble on some scrap paper Kerouac style with no punctuation or breaks about my vision. When we were despairing to find a house to buy I would write for a while about what I want in a house, what I would do in it, how it would feel, what things would fill it, who would visit. It helped to purge the disappointment and also to clarify the vision.

Some days I have "low mojo" and just can't get anything going, or I feel like I am just not walking the right path. That I have a vision for the person I would like to be, the life I would like to live, the family culture I would like to create, and that I am falling short. We're close but not quite there. They are hard days especially with the littles underfoot - there's less time to ponder and mother yourself and help regain your footing. The only thing I usually have time for is my scribbles - just to get it out somewhere. I don't journal - I don't save these, it's just a process - when it's done, I'm done.

This past year there have been many of these days. I have more clarity about what I want for my life than I did before becoming a mother and it feels more important to attain my vision now while my children are still young. So I tried to think about what hurdles are standing in the way of the life I envision and the big obstacle that came up again and again was Andy's working. He was lucky enough to have a friend get him started tutoring in the evenings. The pay is wonderful and there is very little prep work needed. Because we needed the extra money to buy the house it was hard to turn the work away but at 70 hours or so a week of work between school and tutoring he was turning clients away. The hours were too much but the per-hour rate for tutoring was so good in comparison to teaching that we kept adding and hour here and an hour there.Link
I've been very inspired by Rhonda's blog Down To Earth. She shares her story without judgement of where her readers are on their path or how they define "simple living" but the most moving thing about her blog, for me, is the very obvious joy and contentment she can created for herself. The sense of giving each activity her attention and commitment, to cultivating the things that are important to her and to being intentional in every choice. When I found it originally I went down the hole and read through the archives and thought and thought about the control I have over my life. That the life that I wanted was a simple life but a simple life takes time - something that was very scarce this past year. That the life I wanted was the one in which I acted with intention. When the family was on a reasonable schedule we ate fantastic home-cooked meals, we read books and played and had friends over for supper. I sewed clothes and mended them. We kept the house clean and relaxed. As soon as things got busy again everything was a reaction. We were hungry so we had to get something to eat - it wasn't already made so we would have burritos downtown. The laundry wasn't done, the dishes were dirty and I was so busy trying to get caught up that I didn't want to play. The children would finally get in bed and Andy and I would crash in front of a DVD and slump until we went to bed. The contrast was so great between our two patterns that it might have been comical if we hadn't been living it. I felt like we were doing all we could do create the life we wanted but something was always getting slighted.

I started thinking about what kind of a change we could make. Something bold and authentic. Something that felt like we were taking back control of our time and embuing it with the value it deserved. I started throwing out the idea of taking some time off from teaching and just tutoring. Good money, less hours, no stress, flexible schedule. Andy thought I was crazy. I kept thinking and trying my best to make the pieces come together. To make the yummy dinner and still have a tidy house, happy children, friend's to visit, time to relax and enough energy at the end of the night to play cards or chat with Andy instead of zoning out. It wasn't happening. I brought my idea up again and Andy thought I was crazy - thats what people do, they go to work and come home at night and we should feel blessed that I get to stay at home with the children. I took a long hard look and my vision. Was it realistic? Was it as likely as me getting a large estate in the English countryside to reside it? No. This was something that, although currently rare, should be completely realistic. Papa's should see their children for more than 2 hours before they go to bed at night. There should be time to rest when the work is done.

During spring break - a week of vacation from school but with the normal amount of tutoring - I kept noting how much smoother things ran when were in less of a rush and had more time to act with intention. We ate well, we played, we worked, we relaxed, we talked. The children were cooperative, we were patient. The rough moments were easier to weather because we were all on the same page.I brought up this contrast after the first week back to school was particularly trying. "Why are we doing this?" I asked. "This life doesn't feel like "us". It feels like we are letting circumstances make our choices for us". And Andy agreed. "Why not" he said. "Why shouldn't we try this?" And so we held our breath, held hands and jumped. Andy went into work the next day and asked for a sabbatical. And they said yes. The commended him for his commitment to his family and asked him to stay on as a department head for 3 days a month. He accepted.

Just knowing that, come July, we'll be able to make our reality that much closer to our vision makes it easier to get through these last busy weeks. I feel so blessed to have a husband who shares my vision and is willing to figure out how to make a good idea work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Slogging along

some pretty flowers growing on the garden wall

Well last week - which was conspicuously lacking blog posts - was a week to be survived. This last two months of the school year is turning out to be very busy for Andy - 70 hour work weeks are seeming to be the norm through the beginning of June and I am tired. We had some unsettling health news in the extended family and we are waiting for more information that we should get later in the week. Also my camera started making a scary rattling sound and wouldn't show any picture when you looked through the lens. Luckily Andy has a MacGyver streak in him and was able to fix it it, though he says he has no idea how it did it. The relief was amazing - I had such a grumpy feeling that I was going to have to replace the camera ontop of all the other grumpiness going on.

The only thing keeping me on my feet - aside from the sunshine - is the knowledge that this insanity of this schedule we are on has an end point. Knowing that we have a plan to put our lifestyle more inalignment with our values and dreams. The, proverbial, light at the end of the tunnel is the word "sabbatical".

I'll post more about that when I get a few baby-free moment. Éamonn is teething again and so there are lots of snuggles and nursing but not much napping in this house!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

project table

Éamonn only takes one (short) nap each afternoon and as this is my one break until bedtime usually I fall prey to the siren song of either a) reading a book and eating lunch silently while Miryam is playing, or b) cleaning up the mess that was made during the morning (or worse - that was left from the day before). This week I have been trying to spend that time with Miryam so we can have some chatting time but I really need it to be restful and rejuvinating at the same time. To this end we have been having, what Miryam calls, Project Table time. We open up the leaves of the kitchen table so it is big and we each work on our own projects. This allows me to get some quiet and some mama-work done while still spending time with my girl. Paiting has been a no-go when Éamonn is awake so this afternoon she worked on some landscapes while I cut out two more baby boy-sized sailor pants that I am hoping to stitch up this week. You can't see the plate of cookies, milk, and a tall iced cofee in the corner of the table but I will say that they were very helpful elements to getting so much word done on both sides of the table.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

this was the plan

The past few weeks we have been spending every spare non-raining moment to work on the garden for the back yard. We designed a raised bed kitchen garden that is inspired by the french Potager. There are 7 beds made of cedar decking laid out in a symmetrical design. I'll post some pictures of it when the sun starts to shine. We planned the garden and ordered the seeds and then needed to wait until the snow melted and the ground loosed up. We've spent lots of hours digging up the grass that was there and raking out the stones. Boy do we New Englanders know how to grow rocks! We're going to use the stones that we pulled up to make a fire pit in time for the summer solstice.

We had some loam brought in and now are shoveling it in wheel barrows, bringing it around the house and filling up the beds. We got a kid sized wheel barrow and shovel for Miryam and she was quite helpful this weekend though pushing the wheelbarrow still needs a bit of help when it is full - they are tippy! Andy and I were working hard and sweating and the kids were playing in the dirt mountain and getting soil in every crack and crevis. The bath water that evening was like oversteaped tea. Miryam kept her mama and papa gigling all day long:

"boy am I tired - I'm gonna sleep good in this nightime"

"wow! gardening is hard work - but it sure is good for you"

"I keep thinking about the sweet carrots I'll eat when I am done with all this digging digging digging"

Watching Éamonn toddle around and poke things with sticks and Miryam creating her own stories on her mountain Andy and I just kept looking at each other and saying this was the plan. When we planned to move out of town and into the hills on a little piece of land, the plan was a big garden and dirty kids who could be outside on their own doing what kids are designed to do.

I'm watching the plan unfold before my eyes.

Monday, May 4, 2009

my boy is one!

It's amazing to me how quickly this year has gone by - it was so full every moment that there were few moments to stop and notice time's passing. We were so much living each day that to look now and notice all that has happened since my belly was big like the moon is to be awed at all we've experienced. I remember my mom saying that children do grow up so quickly but she has no regrets and worries that she missed it because she really savored every moment and drank in all the memories so she would know that she really lived as much of it as she could. I've tried to do the same but the difference between the first years of my children is surprising to me. With Miryam is went by slowly - a lot of time it was me and her and the puttering speed of our day. I often sat and rocked her and read books while she napped. Each day the sun took it's time from rising to setting. It was lazy and abundant and full of dozy afternoons, kisses, and that sweet milk breath. That first year was lovely and we felt keenly that the earth had gone completely around the sun.

Éamonn's first year has been equally lovely though the days have been so much more full that it seems the sun follows it's track acrosss our sky in moments. The lazy afternoons are a bit fewer and farther between but the joyous chaos that has entered my day is just as sweet. It's been wonderful to see sibling love in it's truest and most unconditional form. The bond that is between these children is an inspiration to me each day. Miryam is a helpful and loving older sister. So compassionate and thoughtful about Éamonn's needs. And her helpfulness allows me to get a shower each day which is a gift in itself.

Last night Éamonn wasn't quite feeling sleepy when he and I crawled into bed last night. He had one of those dangerous dinner-time naps and has the same "second wind" silliness that his sister had at that age when they miss the window for bedtime. So for about a half an hour we played in bed and I laughed untill tears were pouring down my face and my belly hurt. He was trying to bite my nose and making silly faces, we were repeating nonesense sounds to each other and tickling. It was wonderful to have some time together with such mama and baby. It made me think how Miryam was always so silly that she made everyone laugh, but Éamonn is so silly that we all laugh and he laughs along the loudest. As we finally giggled ourselves into a sleepy nursing session I thought about how similar and how different my two littles loves are and how blessed I am to be their mama.

Friday, May 1, 2009

it's always feast or famine here

Completely unrelated photo of a lovely truck parked outside our favorite breakfast place.
I can very clearly see myself in a gingham shirt with braided pigtails driving this
around town with many children
sitting in the back (disregarding the law)
dirty and barefoot eating ice cream. Can't you?

I just can't seem to find the blog-vibe recently. Either it feels like nothing is going on to share or so much is happening that I create mental blog posts in my head but that is as far as they get. We are sitting squarely in the latter category currently. So much has been happening and the weather has been so lovely that the computer is far from my thoughts. I do like the intention that blogging creates in my life - the time to sit and ponder for a moment how to phrase the little bits of my day. So I am making it a goal, rather than a promise, to post everyday in May (though the weekends are off unless I feel inspired to share). We'll see how I do. Up first is trying to get a wiggly 1-year-old to allow me to get some photos of him in the Oliver + s sailboat pants he's been sporting every single day they are clean. We've been putting in our gardens, planting seeds, planning sabbaticals, eating fiddleheads...really there is so much to show when I can create the moment to sit quietly.

To be continued tomorrow...